On Wednesday, June 10, 2015, I attended the American Society of Safety Engineers Annual Conference to present “Overreaching on Ladders: Motivated to Succeed or Fail?” This presentation was part of Safety 2015 at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center in Dallas, Texas.
My presentation described a laboratory experiment regarding ladder safety that was completed while I was a Research Scientist at the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. Assuming that ladders are manufactured to the proper design guidelines and meet the OSHA 1926.1053 regulations, it is important for individuals to employ best practices for use and care. Guidelines for safe ladder use state that the body should remain within the rails of the ladder (“belly button” or “belt buckle” rule), yet many ladder falls occur while workers are performing lateral reaches during task performance. Falls can occur because the individual loses balance and falls off the ladder or because the ladder tips over, causing the individual to fall with it.
My presentation included a description of the protocol, including a video demonstration, and data obtained from twenty-four male human subjects. I described how the data collected regarding the movements of the individuals and forces generated at the feet of the ladders provides important information regarding the effects of lateral reaches on the stability of individuals utilizing a ladder – in this study, specifically a stepladder. I also discussed the effect of ladder height on the results obtained and related reach distances to the location of the individual’s belly button to the ladder rail. Results may indicate a differing level of risk perception depending upon working height, but all work at elevations is potentially dangerous. Individuals must be aware of the safety guidelines and be instructed to abide by them regardless of the working height.
ANGELA DiDOMENICO, PhD, is a senior biomechanist and certified professional ergonomist at ARCCA specializing in the study of human factors, forces and the mechanics associated with human injury. She is experienced in cases/claims involving workplace injuries, ladder safety, construction safety, scaffolding falls, slips and falls, personal protective equipment, OSHA compliance and illumination testing.