We would like to introduce an interesting ergonomic aid that has recently made it to market, while we are not yet endorsing the product we are very interested in how this product may be applicable to some industries here in Alberta and wanted to share it with our followers.


A research lab from Queen’s University in Kingston, ON has developed and tested an on-body ergonomic lifting aid designed to reduce the muscular demands of the back muscles during lifting. This device, dubbed the PLAD (Personal Lift-Assist Device), was developed in 2005 and has gone through many stages of prototypes and rigorous testing, but is finally being used by various industries where employees are performing a lot of lifting and leaning.

The PLAD is designed to work concurrently with the muscles of the back using spring elements that are positioned parallel to the spine.  As a user bends forward to pick up the load, the spring elements within the PLAD are stretched and store energy. As the user extends and begins the up-phase of the lift the stored energy in the springs is released and reduces the required muscular activity of the back extensor muscles and transferring the reaction forces to the shoulders, the pelvis and the knees, all which are strong structures proven to withstand increased forces1,2.


Studies testing the PLAD have examined, symmetrical and asymmetrical lifts, with factors including muscular activity changes, fatigue differences3, joint moments6, joint coordination4, and comparisons across genders5. Recently the PLAD has been taken into a variety of industries to test its usability and acceptability among users in industrial environments.


Four separate industry case studies were performed, two of which were distribution centers, one retail store, and one automotive assembly plant7. Results were positive with respect the use of the PLAD, and when surveyed, most users perceived the PLAD to be effective and felt a reduced workload on their back.


PeakWorks, a company based out of southern Ontario has recently started promoting and selling the PLAD to a variety of industries in the manufacturing and logistics areas. They have ensured the PLAD is easy and realistic to use in industries and have made it possible to put on the PLAD in less than a minute. Click on  PLAD in Action to see how easy it is to use.


1 Abdoli ME, Stevenson JM, Agnew, M. (2006) An on-body personal lift augmentation device (PLAD) reduces EMG amplitude of erector spinae during lifting tasks. Clinical Biomechanics, 21(5), 456-465.

2 Abdoli ME, Stevenson JM, Bryant JT, Reid, SA.(2007) Mathematical and Empirical Proof of Principle for an On-Body Personal Lift Augmentation Device (PLAD). Journal of Biomechanics, 40:1694-1700.

3 Lotz, CA, Agnew, MJ, Godwin, AA, Stevenson, JM. (2008). The effect of an on-body personal lift assist device (PLAD) on fatigue during a repetitive lifting task. Journal of Electromyography and Kinesiology 19, 331–340.

4 Graham, R.B., Smallman, C.L., Sadler, E.M., Stevenson, J.M. (2013). Interjoint coordination and the personal lift-assist device. Journal of Applied Biomechanics. 29(2): 194-204.

5 Sadler, E.M., Graham, R.B., Stevenson, J.M. (2011). Gender differences and lifting technique under light load conditions: a principal components analysis. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science (1-16, iFirst).

6 Abdoli-E, M, Stevenson, JM, Agnew, MJ, Kamalzadeh A. (2009). “Comparison of 3D dynamic virtual model to link segment model for estimation for estimation of net L4/L5 reaction moments during lifting”, Computer Methods in Biomechanics and Biomedical Engineering. 12(2): 227 – 237.

7 Fick, J. (MSc) (2011). Does a lift assist reduce the risks of low back pain in an automotive industry? Queen’s University Thesis.