A faculty research team in Indiana University of Pennsylvania Department of Safety Sciences has been awarded $30,000 by the MEMIC Group to investigate ways to limit workplace slips, trips, and falls.
Dr. Wanda Minnick will lead the research, along with two co-investigators: Dr. Luz Stella Marin and Dr. Majed Zreiqat. Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) graduate student Cory Gaye and an undergraduate student also will be part of the research team.
The grant is the first administered by the MEMIC Safety Research Center, founded in February 2021 to advance the science of safety by leveraging academic research to effectively address new and common risks employees and employers face in the modern workplace.
In its proposal, IUP researchers noted injuries caused by slips, trips, and falls were the second most common cause of workplace injury in 2020, accounting for 18.2 percent of all workplace injuries and illnesses with an estimated direct cost of nearly $11 billion. The incidents are more prevalent in construction industries, which in 2019 had a higher total average rate of slip, trip, and fall injuries than the average in all industries based on U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
“Our mission is ‘making workers’ comp work better,’ so that means conducting research to understand and reduce the probability and frequency of occupational injuries and illnesses, including injuries from slips, trips, and falls that are preventable yet still stubbornly prevalent,” said Dr. Luis F. Pieretti, manager of industrial hygiene at The MEMIC Group and architect of the MEMIC Safety Research Center. “We are confident our first-ever MEMIC Safety Research Center grant will allow researchers at Indiana University of Pennsylvania to follow through on a number of interesting research questions that will help create actionable solutions to these preventable injuries.”
“We hypothesize construction workers constantly adjust the biomechanics of walking to compensate for the falling risks associated with various walking surfaces in a construction site,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, getting timely information of the balance disruption level will inform the implementation of temporary controls (e.g., walking speed reductions, traction mats, handrails, guidelines) to minimize the likelihood of STF-related injuries.”
Dr. Minnick and her team will simulate construction surfaces in the IUP Department of Safety Sciences Laboratory and will assess biomechanics parameters (e.g., speed, stability, motion, joint angles) using wearable devices and motion tracking system technology.
“We are very excited to work with The MEMIC Group and honored to have been selected for this grant,” Dr. Minnick said. “It’s a great opportunity to add to our department’s ongoing work in creating safe workplace environments while involving our students in hands-on research, and we are very grateful to The MEMIC Group for their commitment to this critical issue.”
MEMIC Safety Research Center issued a nationwide call to higher education institutions in 2021 for grant applications to seek, understand, and reduce the probability of occupational injuries and illnesses. The MEMIC Safety Research Center will repeat this call annually.
“We often use safety techniques designed in the 20th century to address risks created in the 21st century. Some work; some do not. This is where research comes in,” said MEMIC Senior Vice President of Loss Control & Safety Services Karl Siegfried. “We are pleased to be collaborating with IUP researchers to study slips and falls that create workplace injury, and we look forward to many more such collaborations with academia to make workplaces safer.”