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Quebec company uses exoskeletons to lighten workers' loads


Quebec's Atwill-Morin is using a modern tool to make the age-old profession of masonry and cement work a little easier.

The company has worked on some of Canada's largest job sites and also runs a masonry school to give apprentices a safe place to learn.

Apprentices aren't just learning the trade, they're wearing exoskeletons -- cutting-edge technology, to lighten the physical load.

"It's a hard business because there's lots heavy loads that need to be lifted. So we're talking about stone. We're talking about blocks and bricks. And it's not just a day-to-day thing. It's a career that can be 20-plus years of lifting heavy loads, getting aches and pain in the lower back," said Matthew Atwill-Morin, the company's president.

The exoskeleton is worn head-to-toe and fit to measure. It's a game changer, said journeyman Jacob Saint-Laurent.

"It feels great. It's really light and it helps me pick up things from the ground," he explained.

Initially developed for soldiers serving in Afghanistan, this technology is now making its way to construction sites.

Exoskeletons make the work easier and can reduce back injuries (CTV News)

Each kit costs thousands of dollars, but it makes good business sense over time, according to Matthew Atwill-Morin, because it keeps workers healthy and makes them more productive.

"It's the chronic pain that we're trying to get rid of. I mean the long-term injuries that are due to usage, that is due to the fact you're repeating the same movements for years and years and years," he said.

And for bigger tasks, a mechanical arm does all the heavy lifting, letting the mason focus on the work.

A mechanical arm lifts the heaviest loads (CTV News)

It also means fewer workers are needed to complete the job. For example, a two-person operation building a wall can now be done solo.

"With this tool, well, it's a one-person job now. And not only is it a one-person job, but it's easy for one person to get it done," said Atwill-Morin.

The new gear comes with the blessing of the unions and the government. Atwill-Morin said it will soon be commonplace on most job sites.

Bricklayer Jean-Marc Stelandt said it's not just making his work easier but also giving his home life a lift.

"I'm less tired on Friday. I have more energy to do things on my own, and I'm not, 'Oh baby, I can't go out tonight, my back hurts,'" he said. Top Stories


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