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Ladder Safety: There’s an App for That

Posted on by Peter Simeonov, Ph.D., Hongwei Hsiao, Ph.D, and John Powers

NIOSH recently released its first smart phone application (app) for mobile devices. This free app is aimed at improving extension ladder safety by providing real-time safety information delivered via the latest technology. Falls are a persistent source of injury in many occupations and in home use. Falls are the number one cause of construction-worker fatalities with falls from ladders a common yet preventable construction injury. Health services and the wholesale and retail industries experience the largest number of non-fatal fall-related injuries. Ladders are also used in home maintenance and repair and to access higher places at home.

Misjudging the ladder angle is a significant risk factor for a fall. If the ladder is set too steeply, it is more likely to fall back or slide away during use, and if it is set too shallow then the bottom can slide out. The NIOSH Ladder Safety phone app has an angle of inclination indicator which uses visual and audible signals making it easier for workers and other users to set an extension ladder at the proper angle of 75.5 degrees. The app can help workers prevent falls and is also a tool for employers who want to ensure a safe workplace. The app is available through the NIOSH website, the Apple App-store, and Android Apps on Google Play.

The NIOSH Division of Safety Research tested and patented the concept of the app’s inclination indicator. They compared existing ladder positioning methods and found that the indicator improved both the accuracy and efficiency for ladder positioning. The Ladder Safety app also includes other information about ladder safety including ladder selection, inspection, accessorizing, and use. While it may seem obvious, we have to say it: for your safety, use the app to set the proper ladder angle before climbing the ladder.

NIOSH and its partners are currently engaged in a national campaign to prevent falls in construction. For more information visit the NIOSH website and the Center for Construction, Research and Training’s website. This new tool can help efforts to reduce construction falls as well as ladder falls in other industries and at home. The science and research behind the development of the ladder safety app are described in the recently published research paper and technical patent.

Help us inform ladder users about this new tool. Please try it out and share this information with your colleagues, partners, and members. We are currently working on a Spanish version. We would welcome suggestions for enhancing the usefulness of the app in future updates.

Peter Simeonov, Ph.D., Hongwei Hsiao, Ph.D, and John Powers

Dr. Simeonov is a Research Safety Engineer in the Protective Technology Branch in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.

Dr. Hsiao is Chief of the Protective Technology Branch in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research. 

Mr. Powers is Chief of the Technology Development Team in the Protective Technology Branch in the NIOSH Division of Safety Research.

Posted on by Peter Simeonov, Ph.D., Hongwei Hsiao, Ph.D, and John Powers

36 comments on “Ladder Safety: There’s an App for That”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    This is wonderful! I hope it will save many others from the fate I suffered when the ladder slipped down the house with me on board. My right foot was nearly severed but by the grace of God, and skillful physicians, my foot was spared and I can walk again after two years of down-time. I know…it could have been worse! So glad you developed this app!
    Debbie Reed

    Would you not be more worried about people falling off a ladder because they are so focused on looking and reading the new app?

    Thank you for your comment. The app is designed to help users set the proper ladder angle before climbing the ladder. The app should not be used when on the ladder.

    Ladder safety is so important and causes tons of home related injuries every year. At nuclear facilities, it is a state driven regulated requirement that all industrial procedure manuals include ladder safety. It only takes one slip and 3 feet of height to seriously injure a human being forever.

    I like the efforts made by developing this app for the people working on height. This is really going to help them and eventually their family members. I like the article and information shared and also recommending my circle to use this app to save their lives. Safety Fabrications is also helping people working at heights and in construction companies by manufacturing quality fall protection post, handrails, safety access ladders.

    It is truly a nice and helpful piece of info. I am happy that you shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.
    jurgen

    Excellent tool for training and as a Toolbox Talk. The inspection is a good memory jogger, but would be more powerful if it collected inspection data.

    The App looks helpful but still relies on it being “applied” by the worker. I suggest you look into automatic ladder levelers to take away some of the human error. They automatically adjust the legs/feet to differences in height and grade in order to keep the ladders upright and prevent slippage.

    Thank you for sharing this awesome and interesting article.But this app has help section very well because it is very helpful to use for user.Another security application for android.

    regards,
    raj

    I think using apps to stay safe is GREAT! However, what about before there was an app for that. People had to use common sense. It seems like there is an app for everything these day. If it works then great but please don’t forget your common sense as well. It has been around long before apps ever were.

    Thanks for the APP!
    IMO there is opportunity to use sound more effectively.
    1) Provide on srceen check box to turn sound off. — As is the sound is very anoying. When you get the angle right you need to listen to a very anoying tone. — does not encourage use.
    2) Re-do sound to have sound give continuous feedback regarding how close tot he optimal angle the ladder is , in a way that the user can hear that they are getting closer to ideal or furthur away. If the angle is in the ideal zone the tone should be pleasant.
    3) Going from red to green without a yellow zone is not aligned with the reality of the effect of angle being continuous and slightly different from ideal being not too bad and way better than being far from ideal. — thus using a yellow zone between the red and green could make the tool truer to reality, and as such more believable.

    Dear ErgoDan,
    1. We are working on an update of the app and we plan to consider developing a switch to allow turning on/off the sound and vibration, in conditions when the app indicator tool is not used as an feedback device, i.e., when the app is used just to check/measure the angle. The sound and vibration signals will still be useful in a feedback mode when using the indicator (by holding the phone against the ladder rail) for guiding the process of adjusting the ladder angle.
    2. While developing the app, we tested a signal with variable frequency to indicate proximity to the correct angle, but opted for a simpler and more straight-forward signaling. We will consider revisiting this issue and we also plan to work on improving the sound signal indicating the optimal angle range.
    3. In the process of developing the app, we also tested the yellow color to indicate angle range closer to the optimal, and again for simplicity decided to have just the green color for the optimal angle range. Again, we will revisit this issue for the update of the app.
    Thank you for the constructive suggestions!

    Having an app that tells you if a ladder is stable to use is a really useful piece of technology. I don’t know how many ladder related accidents there are every year, but I’m sure that the use of this app would cut down on them immensely. This should almost be required by companies that have workers going up and down ladders frequently to have an additional means of safety.

    I have not actually used this in the field, yet, but think it had promise as a great teaching tool

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