University of Pittsburgh Professor to Develop Safer Ladders with Help From NIOSH Grant

Kurt Beschorner receives a $1.8M NIOSH grant to develop safer ladder design and climbing practices

Ladder safety is always top of mind to those working in the occupational safety and health industry. With 29 CFR 1926.1053 (Ladders, construction) still appearing on the list of Top 10 Most Frequently Cited Standards and an estimated $24 billion in annual costs of ladder injuries in the U.S., it is imperative that ladder safety and policies be researched and developed.

The University of Pittsburg's Kurt Beschorner will use a $1.8 million grant from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to develop safer ladder designers and individual risk factors of ladder falls, according to a press release. The work 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.

Under Beschorner, the lab will use two measurements to determine the impact of ladder designs and individual factors on slip and fall risk: required friction and available friction. He explained that available friction is the amount that occurs between the shoe and the rung. When the friction is less than the amount "required" to complete the task, there is risk of a slip-and-fall event. 

“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.”

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