The humble ladder may soon benefit from a technology that enables it to be electrically attached to a variety of building surfaces, according to NIOSH, which is collaborating with SRI International, an independent nonprofit research and development institute, to develop a prototype.

According to a NIOSH eNews release, the device will use an innovative electroadhesion technology invented and developed at SRI. Electroadhesion provides a means to electrically attach a ladder to a variety of building surfaces using considerable force, thereby providing increased traction and resistance to slip. Applying electroadhesion technology to ladders has the potential to improve their stability on variety of materials with smooth, rough, and dusty surfaces.

Falls from ladders were one of the topics addressed at the NIOSH-hosted International Conference on Fall Prevention and Protection earlier this year. Conference Chairperson Dr. Hongwei Hsiao of NIOSH reminded attendees that medical expenses and workers compensation for workers injured or killed in falls of all kinds costs an estimated $70 billion dolllars annually in the United States alone.

Hsiao added that U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that fall-related nonfatal injuries accounted for about a quarter of all occupational injuries in the year 2008.

The conference brought together researchers, safety professionals, engineers, managers, and students to present research findings and exchange ideas on emerging methods to tackle the global occupational fall injury problem.