Sean Petterson knows the pain of a workplace fatality.
His father, a contractor, died on the job when Petterson was still a teenager, a tragedy that shaped the trajectory of the young entrepreneur’s life.
Now, Petterson and his business partner, Justin Hillery, are determined to protect blue collars workers, whom they refer to as “industrial athletes” from on-the-job injuries.
Their New York-based startup, StrongArm Technologies, creates industrial safety products.
StrongArm, which began as a school project while Petterson and Hillery were attending the Rochester Institute of Technology, officially launched this summer and already is being backed by 3M Safety and Graphics Business Group.
“We want to reinvent the way people are visualizing this work,” Petterson said. “We want people to understand there’s a way to work with no pain.”
StrongArm offers two industrial products, the V22 and the FLx. The V22 is a self-powered lifting device. The FLx acts like a personal spotter and supports proper posture.
‘It’s kind of like an external muscle. It acts like a coach or a spotter in the gym,” Petterson said about the FLx.
The idea is to create a slew of human augmentation technologies that move the human worker beyond normal biological confines.
"We want a brand that empowers people," Petterson said.
With their fast-moving, small but young company, Petterson and Hillery hope to be thought leaders in the human enhancement space.
They see industry as a demanding livelihood, one that requires workers to handle physical strains and expectations similar to those experienced by professional athletes and want to develop the tools those industrial athletes need to make it home safely.
“We grew up with these guys who do this job,” Petterson said. “We’ve done this job. “
To design their products, Petterson and Hillery turn to the industrial workforce, involving them heavily in the process. A company will test out a product, and using the worker feedback, StrongArm will make changes to the design.
StrongArm this week moved into a new space at New Lab, a business incubator in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and employs 12 people.
The team is currently working on sensor technology for the warehouse that it hopes to debut by the first quarter of 2016.