Ergonomics evaluation into the safety of stepladders: User profile and dynamic testing - Phase 2

2006-05-24T10:33:54Z (GMT) by Laurence Clift Tanya Navarro
This report details the background, methodology and findings of an extensive investigation into the issue of the stability of stepladders. This work has been funded by the Health and Safety Executive to both build on previous work conducted by the Consumer Affairs Directorate of the Department of Trade and Industry, and in response to a continued high level of injuries and fatalities associated with this product group. The work uniquely approaches the problem from the perspective of the user and, through intensive user trials, has quantified the forces they generate which stepladder systems must resist if they are to remain stable. Through a diverse range of simulated tasks, a representative sample of domestic and professional users have been able to demonstrate their normal patterns of behaviour, reflecting their experience, attitudes, expectations and training relating to the use of stepladders. Armed with this knowledge, modern stepladder design has been scrutinised. The conclusion drawn is that current designs do not adequately meet the demands that users might reasonably make on the stability of stepladders, and this shortfall is leading to accidents. The current policy of trying to discourage users from undertaking activities they consider normal, by means of instructions and warnings had been shown to be flawed, both in the comprehension of the information and in its application. Users clearly need greater margins of safety to be built into stepladders to protect them during normal activity. Users were further scrutinised to determine their personalities and attitudes, as well as their approach to safety and risk management. It has been found that they can be grouped according to age, predisposition to risk and other variables, which correlate to undertaking risky behaviour with stepladders. This finding leads to the recommendation that some personality profiling tools may be used to help identify individuals who are unsuited to professional ladder use without some other safety intervention. The information gained from the evaluation of the stepladders and their users has been combined to form the basis of a new test specification, which it is recommended is integrated into standards relating to the safety of stepladders.