FALL INJURIES PREVENTION IN THE WORKPLACE
NIOSH Ladder Safety Mobile Application
What is the Ladder Safety app?
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recently released its first smart phone application (app), which is aimed at improving extension ladder safety. The Ladder Safety app addresses the major causes of ladder falls by placing a number of interactive and easy-to-use graphic-oriented tools into the hands of the ladder users upon demand.
The app features an angle of inclination indicator which uses visual, sound, and vibration signals making it easier for workers and other users to set an extension ladder at the proper angle of approximately 75.5 degrees. The app also includes a “Selection” tool which provides an interactive and easy-to-use procedure to select the minimum required ladder duty-rating corresponding to the user characteristics and task.
Furthermore, the app features an “Inspection” tool which provides a comprehensive, graphic-based, interactive and easy-to-use checklist for ladder mechanical inspection. OSHA regulations and ANSI A14 standards include a set of rules for safe ladder use – the app’s “Proper Use” tool presents these rules in a clear graphic format, which is both informative and easy to understand.
Using smart phone technology, the NIOSH Ladder Safety app delivers free and easy-to-use ladder safety tools and information, reference materials, and training resources into the hands of individual ladder users wherever and when they are needed. The application is available in English and Spanish as a free download for Apple iPhone/iPad and Google Android devices.
What are the causes of ladder falls?
Ladder fall injuries are a persistent hazard both in the workplace and at home. There are five major causes for extension-ladder fall incidents:
- incorrect ladder setup angle,
- inappropriate ladder selection,
- insufficient ladder inspection,
- improper ladder use, and
- lack of access to ladder safety tools and information.
The leading cause of ladder-related injuries, in approximately 40% of cases, is a ladder sliding-out at the base due to an incorrect ladder setup angle. Ladder users tend to set extension ladders at shallower angles than the desired optimal angle (75.5 degrees).
Selection of a ladder with the proper duty-rating is also critical to avoid structural failure. However, knowledge on proper ladder selection is lacking among many ladder users, and this important safety step is frequently ignored.
Regular inspection and maintenance are good practices to reduce the likelihood of ladder structural failure, however, quick and easy access to ladder safety checklists is not always available.
Inappropriate and unsafe ladder user behavior is associated with many ladder fall incidents. Activities such as overreaching, carrying objects, applying excessive force, slips and missteps are also frequent causes of ladder-related fall injuries.
Finally, small companies that account for up to 80% of all construction companies, and individual ladder users, such as homeowners, do not typically receive the required training for safe use of extension ladders. Such ladder users are difficult to reach, often do not have access to safety information, and generally lack the resources to develop or follow an effective ladder safety program.
How big is the problem of ladder falls?
Falls-from-ladders are a leading cause of fall injury and death. In the US, more than 500,000 people a year are treated, and about 300 people die, from ladder-related fall injuries. The estimated annual cost of ladder injuries in the US is $11 billion, including work loss, medical, legal, liability, and pain and suffering expenses. Recent analysis of data from three surveillance systems showed that in 2011, work-related ladder fall injuries in the US resulted in 113 fatalities, an estimated 15,460 nonfatal injuries that involved days away from work, and an estimated 34,000 nonfatal injuries treated in emergency departments. Workers who are male, Hispanic, older, self-employed, work in smaller establishments, and work doing construction, maintenance, and repair experience higher ladder fall injury rates. There is a pressing need to address the serious problem of ladder-related falls and to reduce the resulting injury and death.
How was the ladder app received?
As of the end of April 2014, the app has been downloaded more than 18,880 times. It is expected that these high rates of downloads will continue with the recent release of the Spanish version of the app and continued marketing. The app has been highly rated by ladder users and promoted by state officials, industry leaders, and safety professionals. Many companies have incorporated the use of the app as part of their safety policy. It has also received considerable international attention.
How will the ladder app be further improved?
The team will consider suggestions from ladder users to further improve the app’s appearance, content, and function. As part of this effort, the research team will consider including interactive tools and information on Step Ladder safety. In addition, specific efforts will be made to evaluate the impact of the app in the work practice.
Noteworthy Publications & Products
The NIOSH Ladder Safety smart phone app video.
Published on May 6, 2014
Occupational Ladder Fall Injuries â United States, 2011
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report: April 25, 2014 / 63(16):341-346
The paper analyzes injury data and presents the current state of the occupational ladder fall injuries in the US.
Ladder Safety: There's an App for That
NIOSH Ladder Safety App Blog Page. (August 27, 2013)
Includes multiple user comments.
NIOSH Update: New NIOSH Smart Phone App Addresses Ladder Safety
NIOSH Update (June 17, 2013)
Research to Improve Extension Ladder Angular Positioning
Applied Ergonomics: May 2013 / 44(3):496-502
The paper comparatively evaluates and describes the effective and efficient performance of the innovative multimodal indicator (conceptual design) for setting up ladders.
Factors Affecting Extension Ladder Angular Positioning
Human Factors: June 2012 / 54(3):334 – 345
The paper demonstrates the under-performance of the current standard methods for setting up extension ladders.
Multimodal Indicator Safety Device for Ladder Positioning
US Patent No. 08167087 (Issued May 1, 2012)
The patent describes the invention and technical specifications for the multimodal inclination indicator, i.e., the concept implemented in the Ladder Safety app.
Extension-ladder Safety: Solutions and Knowledge Gaps
International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics: November-December 2008 / 38(11-12):959-965
The paper reviews the literature on causes of ladder fall injury and identifies research gaps, including the need for developing better positioning indicators and easy to use graphic guidelines.
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