Most Winter Boots Are too Slippery to Walk Safely on Icy Surfaces

November 28, 2016

A team of researchers from the iDAPT labs at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University Health Network are dedicated to keeping Canadians safer this winter by offering evidence-based ratings on footwear that may reduce the risk of slips and falls on ice. The team has developed the first test of its kind in the world—the Maximum Achievable Angle (MAA) Testing Method—to validate slip resistant footwear on icy surfaces using real people in a simulated winter environment.

With the help of WinterLab, an underground, state-of-the art research facility located at Toronto Rehab, researchers have tested the slip resistance of 98 winter boots, including both safety and casual footwear. The results have been published on—with only eight percent of the 98 different types of footwear meeting the minimum slip resistance standards set out by the MAA test.

For the first time, consumers will have winter slip resistance ratings available when they purchase winter footwear—similar to the ratings available for winter tires. Consumers are encouraged to request winter footwear they would like to see put to the test.

It's estimated that more than 20,000 Ontarians visit the emergency room every year due to injuries related to falling on ice or snow. A recent Toronto Public Health report revealed that over 40% of those aged 35-59 years and 60% of those aged 60–85 years said they would go out less as a way to cope with the winter weather.

"This is another example of how research at Toronto Rehab provides practical help to prevent accidents and disability. I expect that many serious and life-changing injuries will be prevented this winter by people choosing to buy better non-slip footwear," says Dr. Geoff Fernie, Research Director, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.

"I also expect the impact to grow with future winters as more manufacturers strive to develop products that score well in our system and can be recommended to consumers."

WinterLab has the ability to recreate typical Canadian winter conditions, for example sub-zero temperatures, snow and ice covered surfaces, and winds up to 30 km per hour. WinterLab can be tilted to create slopes, or can be moved suddenly to challenge a participant's balance while safely fastened into a harness.

The MAA test is conducted in four basic steps:

  • Participants begin on a level icy surface in WinterLab.
  • Participants are asked to walk up and down the icy walkway as WinterLab is tipped and the slope of the walkway gradually gets steeper.
  • The angle of the slope continues to increase until the participant slips.
  • The largest angle where the participant did not slip is called the Maximum Achievable Angle (MAA).

Testing in WinterLab is completed on both bare ice and melting ice to simulate diverse outdoor surfaces Canadians may come across in the winter months. Combined with walking uphill and downhill, four conditions are tested for each pair of footwear. The overall score is based on the minimum performance over the four conditions.

Toronto Rehab has created a “snowflake” scale to rate the slip-resistance of winter footwear.

Ontario's accessibility guidelines specify a curb ramp of at most seven degrees. Footwear that achieves at least the minimum angle of seven degrees is awarded one snowflake. Two snowflakes are given for 11 degrees and three snowflakes for 15 degrees—although none of the footwear tested to date has achieved two or three snowflakes. The most surprising finding was that 90 types of winter footwear tested failed to even achieve seven degrees and could not be awarded any snowflakes.

Toronto Rehab researchers have found that two technologies stood out among successful MAA-approved boots—Green Diamond and Arctic Grip. Shoes outfitted with Green Diamond or Arctic Grip soles have special outsole materials designed to provide better traction on wet ice, which may reduce the risk of slips and falls on slippery icy surfaces. These shoes and boots were awarded one snowflake.

Researchers are excited by the possibility of providing ratings for winter shoes and working with manufacturers to develop new footwear that functions well on snow and ice. They have been testing footwear prototypes that have scored two and, even, three snowflakes, and hope to see these available for sale within two years.

Cleveland RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Cleveland, OH, on January 3–5 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Raleigh Area RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management: The Complete Course and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Cary, NC, on January 9–11 and save $100. If you ship dangerous goods by air, get your required training at Transportation of Dangerous Goods: Compliance with IATA Regulations on January 12. Ensure your facility is in compliance with EPCRA requirements at the SARA Title III Workshop on January 13. To take advantage of these offers, click here or call 800-537-2372.

Anaheim RCRA and DOT Training

Register for Hazardous Waste Management in California and DOT Hazardous Materials Training: The Complete Course in Anaheim, CA, on January 10–12 and save $100. To take advantage of this offer, click here or call 800-537-2372.

W.F. Hann & Sons Employee Injured in Trench Collapse

OSHA’s Cleveland office has opened an investigation after learning a 28-year-old employee of W.F. Hann & Sons was injured while installing sewer lines in an 8-foot trench in Seven Hills on November 19, 2016.

While working in the trench at approximately 1:30 p.m., the soil suddenly shifted, and the trench walls around him collapsed—burying him in an estimated 14,000 lb of dirt. The force of the soil was so great that it shattered a piece of 4 x 8 inch thick strand board the company used for shoring. A co-worker dug him out of the trench quickly and saved the man's life. The Seven Hills Fire Department responded to the 911 call and transported the employee to Metro Hospital. His condition is unknown.

This incident marks the 13th time in 2016 that a worker was injured in a trench collapse. In total, collapses have killed 23 workers since January.

In a related incident, OSHA reported that an agency inspector saw a worker in a 15-foot deep unprotected trench in Berea and ensured he was removed from danger. The agency has opened an investigation of the man's employer—Trax Construction Co., of Wickliffe—as a result.

"The employers of both of these men are just lucky that neither of these men were killed while working in a trench without adequate safety protections. Nationwide, trench deaths have more than doubled since 2015—an alarming trend that must be halted," said Howard Eberts, OSHA's Area Director in Cleveland. "Excavating companies need to re-examine their safety procedures to ensure they are taking all available precautions—including installing trench boxes, shoring and other means to prevent unexpected shifts in the soil that can cause walls to collapse."

OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations. Trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, and soil and other materials kept at least two feet from the edge of trench.

The agency last inspected Cleveland-based W.F. Hann & Sons in 1999. The company was issued three citations related to a lack of fall protection, training, and frequent inspections. Trax Construction Co., was last inspected in 2014 and was issued a citation related to lack of adequate cave-in protection.

Learn more about the OSHA inspection process here.

Don M. Barron Contractor Fined $152,147 for Confined Space Violations After Fumes Sicken Two Workers

OSHA responded to a report of unsafe working conditions May 17, 2016, after two employees of Don M. Barron Contractor, Inc., lost consciousness and collapsed. The workers were exposed to hazardous gas while entering a sewer system. Federal safety and health investigators found the company allowed the workers inside a confined space without having tested the space for hazards.

OSHA issued citations for six serious violations and one willful violation. The agency also cited company for failing to maintain gas testing meters and rescue equipment, and for not training all employees in confined space entry.

Proposed penalties total $152,147

"Don M. Barron Contractor should never allow workers to enter a confined space without properly evaluating hazards inside the space," said Dorinda Folse, OSHA's area director in Baton Rouge. "This employer must take responsibility for making sure these types of injuries and the potential for loss of life do not happen again."

Crystal Window & Doors Failed to Correct Violations After Worker Suffered Amputation, Fined $75,826

On November 14, 2016, OSHA issued citations for eight serious and one other-than-serious safety violations.

An inspection began on May 16, 2016, after a complaint alleging an amputation injury in January 2016 at the window manufacturer's Dalton facility was not reported to OSHA. It was also conducted as part of OSHA's national emphasis program focused on amputations.

Inspectors cited the company for serious violations involving:

  • No established energy control program
  • Powered industrial trucks operated by employees without proper training
  • Unguarded machinery
  • A mechanical power press operated without a single-stroke mechanism, which prevents worker exposure to amputation hazards and other injuries
  • Mechanical power presses not periodically and regularly inspected and tested
  • Damaged electrical equipment

The other-than-serious violation was due to the lack of a written hazard communication program.

"In January 2016, an employee of this company suffered a finger amputation on his first day of work. Since then, Crystal Window & Door Systems has not taken the necessary actions to correct the safety hazards that caused the amputation," said Mark Stelmack, director of OSHA's Wilkes-Barre Area Office. "When employers fail to provide a safe workplace, we will hold them legally accountable."

Proposed penalties total $74,826.

OSHA, Safety Council of Northwest Ohio Renew Alliance to Provide Education, Resources to Area Employers

OSHA and the Safety Council of Northwest Ohio have signed a two-year renewal of their alliance to provide information, guidance and access to training resources for council members.

Chartered in 1960, the council is a non-profit, community-based organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life in Northwest Ohio through safety enhancements, personal health, the economy and the environment by providing education and resources. The SCNWO has more than 1,700 members representing small business, industry and government employers.

First signed on December 20, 2005, the alliance continues the joint effort to implement safety and health improvements by:

  • Developing effective training programs for local industry on topics such as transportation and traffic accident reduction, fall prevention as well as amputation, fall, and combustible dust hazards
  • Providing safety seminars and talks
  • Encouraging worker participation in employer safety and health programs
  • Sharing information on occupational safety and health laws
  • Educating temporary workers about their rights and job hazards

Together, the agency will work with the SCNWO to promote a culture of worker safety and health within its member organizations and to promote awareness of the agency's rulemakings, enforcement initiatives and safety campaigns, including an understanding of workers' rights and employer responsibilities. The partners will also speak, exhibit and appear at OSHA or SCNWO conferences.

"In collaboration with the SCNWO, we at OSHA can help private industry, governmental bodies and small business employers train and protect their employees from preventable workplace injuries," said Joseph Margetiak, OSHA's acting area director in Toledo. "Our alliance allows to us to work together to foster education and provide training and resources to more than 1,700 members of the SCNWO and also provides a conduit for us to reach the growing Hispanic workforce in the Northwest Ohio through trusted resources and by providing materials in Spanish regarding their rights as workers."

Through its Alliance Program, OSHA works with groups committed to worker safety and health to prevent workplace fatalities, injuries, and illnesses. These groups include unions, consulates, trade or professional organizations, businesses, faith- and community-based organizations, and educational institutions. OSHA and the groups work together to develop compliance assistance tools and resources, share information with workers and employers, and educate workers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.

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