Batteries Might Prevent Workplace Injury

Batteries Might Prevent Workplace Injury

An associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh leads a study to show AA batteries can measure shoe tread wear, leading to slips and falls.

Workplace injuries and deaths have a huge economic impact on the U.S. costing billions of dollars. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), work injury costs totaled $170.8 billion in 2018. One of the top causes was slip-and-fall injuries – an accident that can be completely prevented with proper footwear.

A research study was conducted by The University of Pittsburgh’s Kurt Beschorner and others to predict the risk of a slip-and-fall injury based on shoe tread. They examined the impact of worn shoes on slipping and are working with the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA) Traumatic Injury Prevention Council to develop safety signage.

“Our research focuses on understanding the underlying causes of slippery shoes, and we have been working to identify the tread thresholds where shoes become unsafe,” said Beschorner, associate professor of bioengineering at Pitt and a member of the Human Movement & Balance Laboratory. “Slip-resistant shoes are designed with train channels that help drain fluid, but as shoes wear down, the channels disappear and become ineffective. This can create a slipping effect similar to tires hydroplaning on a wet road.”

The risk of slipping depends on the size of the worn patch of shoe. According to an article, they developed a test that uses a universal device and battery to determine when it’s time to replace your footwear.

“The strength of our test is in its simplicity,” Beschorner said. “Use the base of a AA battery to measure the worn region of your slip-resistant shoe. When the worn region becomes larger than the base of a battery, the shoe should be replaced. As the worn patch grows larger, there is a steady decline in function, and the base of the battery is the size where it becomes meaningful.”

The team considered pens or coins for the test, but most objects varied in size regarding brand or country. Batteries, however, are the same universally. Beschorner suggests to keep an eye on your shoes and replace them before the worn patch becomes too large. His research also shows that people will "wear through their shoes at different rates."

“The rate of wear was predicted by the walking style of the individual. Particularly, participants who utilized more friction during dry walking wore through shoes at a faster rate,” he said.“Thus, individuals may require different replacement schedules based on their unique walking style.”

In addition to monitoring the shoes, Beschorner suggests that workers examine the tread before purchasing new ones.

About the Author

Shereen Hashem is the Associate Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety magazine.

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