NIOSH Convenes International Research Conference on Preventing Work Injuries from Falls


NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser, (202) 245-0645
May 19, 2010

At a two-day international research conference in Morgantown, W.Va., that opens today, researchers will highlight new scientific studies designed to identify factors that result in painful, costly, and often fatal fall injuries on the job, and to help develop effective safety interventions. The conference is sponsored by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Fall injuries include those resulting from slips, trips, and falls from heights. Falls – predominantly, falls from elevations – are one of the four most frequent causes of death on the job, and even non-fatal falls can result in temporary or permanent impairment from strains, tears, fractures, and other injuries. Fall hazards can occur in virtually every type of workplace.

“Falls are a preventable but persistent occupational hazard,” said NIOSH Director John Howard, M.D., who presented welcoming remarks on behalf of NIOSH at the International Conference on Fall Prevention and Protection. “We are pleased to convene our colleagues from around the U.S. and abroad to share latest research findings, explore opportunities for new research, discuss the development and application of new preventive measures, and stimulate international partnerships.”

The conference will feature two days of research presentations, as well as an opening discussion of global strategic research goals. The presentations include new findings and updates by NIOSH researchers in the following areas:

  • Nursing homes: Over a six-year period, workers at six nursing homes filed 86 workers’ compensation claims for injuries from slips, trips, and falls. Most of the cases were attributed to hazards such as water on the floor or loose cords in a walkway.
  • Fire fighting: A NIOSH study found that fire fighters are more likely to trip over obstacles when wearing heavier boots and after walking for a period of time. The study is part of NIOSH research to provide scientific evidence to help manufacturers and fire fighters in boot design and selection.
  • Construction: Two NIOSH studies in the construction industry were reported. One study estimated that 4,864 fatal falls in construction from 2003 to 2006 cost the economy $5.1 billion. The other study verified that an innovative, NIOSH-developed guardrail system for preventing fatal falls more than met a required Occupational Safety and Health Administration standard for withstanding weight.
  • Manufacturing: Over a four-year study period, 226 injuries from slips, trips, and falls occurred at a helicopter manufacturing plant. Of these, 123 involved factors that generally are preventable through housekeeping and maintenance. The injuries cost some $1.5 million in workers compensation expenses.
  • Extension Ladders: An innovative technology improved the stability of extension ladders in laboratory tests, a key factor in the risk of falling from a ladder. The technology uses electrostatic charges from pads on the feet of ladders to give greater traction.
  • Scissor Lifts: Laboratory tests suggested that safety harnesses and lanyards anchored to scissor lifts can arrest worker falls from scissor lifts without compromising the stability of the lifts. The results provide new data for further assessing the performance of fall-arrest systems as part of an overall strategy for preventing falls from scissor lifts.

NIOSH’s Division of Safety Research, located in NIOSH’s Morgantown facility, is a national leader in collaborative research to prevent work-related injuries and deaths. More information about NIOSH research on traumatic occupational injuries is available at . Further details about the International Conference on Fall Prevention and Protection can be found at

NIOSH is the federal agency that conducts research and makes recommendations to prevent occupational injuries, illnesses, and deaths. It was created under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. For more information, visit


Page last reviewed: August 6, 2012