Researcher Gets $1.8M Grant for Slip Study


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has awarded a $1.8 million grant to a University of Pittsburgh researcher to develop a safer ladder.

The work, by Kurt Beschorner, will focus on “measuring friction as the pathway for the ladder and individual to influence slip-and-fall risk.”

“A slip happens when there is insufficient friction between the shoe surface and ladder rung, but little is known about how ladder design or an individual’s body affects slip and fall risk,” said Beschorner, associate professor of bioengineering at Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering.

Previous work out of the school has provided a foundation for understanding fall risk factors; groups that are at an increased risk for falls include older adults, inexperienced climbers and people with lower body strength. The research will build upon these factors with a larger case study.

According to Pitt, the lab will use two measurements to determine the impact of ladder design and individual factors on slip-and-fall risk: required friction and available friction.

“The available friction is the amount that occurs between a shoe and rung,” Beschorner said. “When that value is less than the amount of friction that is required to complete a task, there is a risk of a slip-and-fall event.”

To measure the required friction, researchers will install force plate technology onto rungs and build a ladder around it. They will then combine force data with motion data.

To measure the available friction, researchers will use a device that simulates a slip under controlled conditions and measure how much friction is generated. They will then create a “slippery rung scenario” with a harnessed participant to test whether an individual slips under these specific conditions.

Beschorner acknowledges that while ladders are a consumer product, they’re also dangerous occupationally.

“This award gives us an opportunity to develop a mechanistic model to see how these individual factors influence fall risk,” he continued. “We will study these measurements of friction and how they relate to slipping in order to establish safety guidelines, which will hopefully lead to a significant reduction in severe injuries and fatalities in both the workplace and at home.”


Tagged categories: Fall protection; Grants; Health & Safety; Health and safety; Ladders; NA; North America; Research and development; Safety

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