PIKETON, Ohio – No, Damon Horn is not the “Six-Million-Dollar Man.” He doesn’t even try to imitate actor Lee Majors’s 1970s science fiction TV character.
But Horn and some of his colleagues are testing bionic support equipment to improve worker safety, performance, and stamina on non-destructive assay (NDA) work at EM’s Portsmouth Site. NDA at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant entails measuring the quantities of uranium deposits that remain from enrichment operations in dozens of miles of process pipes.
Working with deactivation and decommissioning (D&D) contractor Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth’s (FBP) Occupational Safety and Health division, the FBP NDA techs are evaluating the use of exoskeletal devices.
The gear support the upper body for workers in waste management and decommissioning operations. Worn much like a backpack, the devices are used for overhead work to relieve stress on muscles and joints. They weigh just 9.5 pounds and are spring-activated, relieving up to 15 pounds of pressure from the shoulders and spine when a worker’s arms are raised. NDA techs spend hours each day working with tools at odd angles with their arms raised, taxing the body over time.
“We are always interested in looking at appropriate technological advancements that can have a real-world impact on worker safety and project efficiency,” said Joel Bradburne, deputy manager for EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office. “This is not a toy that is just fun to play with, but is instead a viable piece of equipment that we are evaluating to see if it can truly augment endurance and prevent injuries.”