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Footwear effects on workers' instability in a virtual roof workplace.

Simeonov-P; Hsiao-H; Amendola-A; Powers-J; Ammons-D; Kau-T; Cantis-D
American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 21-26, 2005, Anaheim, California. Fairfax, VA: American Industrial Hygiene Association, 2005 May; :49
Falls from elevation remain the leading cause for fatal injuries in the construction industry, with building roofs as the major source of falls. Previous research has recognized that many of these falls initiate as loss-of-balance incidents. Workers rely heavily on sensory information from their feet to maintain balance in the visually degraded environment at elevation. Shoes act as a sensory interface between the worker's feet and the support surface, and their design can modify balance control. This study evaluated the effect of footwear type/style on workers' instability in a simulated roof workplace. Twenty four construction workers performed walking tasks with three athletic and three work shoe styles on 10" and 6" wide roof planks. The planks were positioned in a surround-screen virtual reality system which simulated visually the environment on the roof of a residential building. A simulated ground environment served as a baseline. Trunk and foot kinematics and instability perceptions were collected using a balanced experimental design. Dependent variables included the angular velocities of the trunk and the shoe rear end in the frontal plane, and the rated perceived instability. Repeated measures ANOVA demonstrated significant environment-shoe type interaction effect on all dependent variables. The differences between the shoe types were significant only at the narrow planks at simulated height but not in the baseline conditions. Overall, the shoes with improved motion control characteristics, e.g., tennis and basketball athletic styles, appeared to enhance workers' stability, while the running shoes increased instability. Further, shoes with a higher upper, e.g., work and safety boots style vs. low-cut work shoes, improved considerably workers' balance on the narrow roof planks. In conclusion, proper shoe selection and improvements in the design of specialized work footwear would enhance workers' stability at height, and can be an effective intervention strategy to reduce the risk of falling.
Workers; Injuries; Traumatic-injuries; Construction-industry; Construction-workers; Construction-equipment; Roofers; Roofing-industry; Simulation-methods; Workplace-monitoring; Workplace-studies
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American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition, May 21-26, 2005, Anaheim, California
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division