Ergonomics evaluation into the safety of stepladders: Literature and standards review - phase 1
online resourceposted on 24.05.2006, 10:36 by Laurence Clift, Tanya Navarro
This review appraises relevant published documents to determine the current understanding of the issues affecting the stability of stepladders. In doing so it identifies that, whilst there have been many attempts to conduct research into this issue, these have only ever been partly successful. Most research appears to only address certain aspects of the safety provided, instead of approaching the problem holistically. As such, actions following any research undertaken have been small-scale, largely unmonitored and arguably ineffective. A further appraisal of the human factors issues relating to stepladder use reveals it to be a complex area, involving not just simple mechanical actions, but also risk perception, behaviour modifications and the effectiveness of warnings and labelling. Again, whilst some considerable effort has been made in examining the manifestations of these variables, there is little solid evidence for an understanding of the causes and effects that can fundamentally alter the safety of the stepladder in use. A review of the accident statistics reveals that stepladders are certainly a highly injurious product. Despite this, the manufacture and use of these products appears less well controlled than other equipment and devices such as power tools or personal protective equipment. However, it is quite clear that intervention in this area could be highly effective in both the prevention of personal suffering and also the saving of costs. The last section of this report deals with a comparison of the current standards and regulations controlling the manufacture and use of stepladders. It can be seen that whilst considerable effort is being made to ensure that a technically capable product is being manufactured, and professional use is well controlled, these steps do not appear to be effective in reducing the number or severity of accidents in the real world. It is patent that an element is missing in the safety equation, and the conclusion of this report is that only through a better understanding of the users’ needs and behaviour can this can be identified. Accordingly, a proposal is made to undertake extensive dynamic trials involving stepladders to evaluate the key variables controlling their stability in use.