University of Pittsburgh researchers received a $1.5 million grant from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to develop techniques for predicting the wear rate of footwear in order to reduce the risk of slip and fall accidents.
The study is titled “Impact of Worn Shoes on Slipping.” The university’s Swanson School of Engineering hopes their findings will help improve shoe design and provide guidelines for when worn footwear should be replaced for optimal safety. The researchers aim to identify the critical factors that impact how quickly shoes wear, which can help manufacturers build more durable footwear.
Kurt E. Beschorner, research assistant professor of the school’s bioengineering department, is leading the study. He said, “We have preventative screenings for many health issues such as cancer. Yet relatively few studies have been done to reduce fall prevention by improving the slip resistance of shoes.”
Shoes can be a significant contributing factor in slip and fall accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, such accidents at the workplace cost the U.S. economy around $180 billion each year.
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Beschorner likened the friction between a shoe’s sole and a walking surface to the traction between a car’s tires and the road. Heavily worn shoes have a lower coefficient of friction and pose a higher risk of slipping and falling. To determine the underlying causes of what makes shoes unsafe and how long it takes to reach that point, the researchers have developed new technology such as a robotic slip-tester to simulate wear.
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