NIOSH Ladder Safety App Review

Over the weekend I tackled the ever so fun task of pressure washing our house. As exciting as performing this long put off menial chore was it did require me to pull out the old extension ladder and the opportunity to test out the new NIOSH Ladder Safety App. I downloaded the app to my Google Nexus S by Samsung. The app is available for both Android devices and iPhones. The Android version is 8.9MB and requires Android Version 2.2 or higher. The iOS version is 46.2MB and requires iOS Version 5.0 or higher.

The app downloaded quickly and navigation among the various features is simple and fast. The app opens to the home screen explaining that the information contained in the app covers only straight/extension portable ladders and does not cover stepladders. It also explains that the information provided mainly comes from the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) A14 Ladder Safety standards. It also gives a quick overview of the features and information contained in the app, a warning about periodically checking the measuring tool against a verified 90-degree angle for accuracy as well as a disclaimer from the NIOSH regarding the app.

                        

The key feature of the app is the multimodal inclination indicator which is a measuring tool to ensure that the ladder is positioned at the optimal angle for use. To set the correct angle you simply click on the Measuring Tool button at the bottom of the screen and then hold the phone flat against the side rail along the front edge and move the ladder until you hear a beeping noise indicating an optimal angle has been reached. You can also check the angle of a ladder that’s already in place by aligning the phone on the top of the side rail. If the arrow is green and you hear a beeping sound then the ladder is placed at an optimal angle.

The optimal angle is between 73.5 and 77.5 degrees. When you have the app at this angle the arrow will turn green and “Great!” will appear above the angle number in addition to beeping. If the angle is at 77.6 to 90 degrees the arrow will be red and it will read “Too steep” and if the angle is between 73.4 and 0.0 degrees the arrow will be read and it will read “Too shallow”.

                          

The app also provides information on two other methods for ensuring correct ladder placement. The body method requires placing your toes against the bottom of the ladder side rails and extending your hands straight out while standing erect. If the ladder is at the correct angle then your palms should touch the top of the rung at shoulder level. The other method uses the 4:1 ratio meaning that the base of the ladder should be 1 foot away from the support for every 4 feet of working length of the ladder. So if the working length of the ladder is 12 feet then the base of the ladder should be 3 feet away from the support.

By selecting the Ladder Safety button on the navigation menu at the bottom of the screen you are given seven options: Considerations, Selection, Inspection, Set Up, Proper Use and Accessories. The two features I found the most useful were the ladder selection and ladder inspection functions.

The ladder selection feature is interactive and requires you to select the weight of the person using the ladder including any tools or materials being carried up the ladder and also selecting whether or not you or the ladder will be exposed to any electric conductors. Once you’ve done that you simply click the “Show me the ladder” button and a screen pops up showing the minimum grade required along with the load capacity and duty rating. I put in 200 lbs. and indicated no to being exposed to electrical conductors. The recommended ladder for this was a 1-star, 200 lbs. load capacity, Type III duty rating. Note: selecting yes to being exposed to electrical conductors adds the following warning at the bottom of the recommended ladder, “IMPORTANT: Use a ladder made of non-conductive material!” If you select a weight greater than 375 lbs. it advises you to consider using another device to reach the elevation required.

 

                       

The ladder inspection function walks you through a 9-point inspection of your ladder. Each time you click on one of the exclamation points an image pops up on the right describing which part of the ladder is being shown and what to look for to ensure that the ladder is in good, working order. Another cool feature is that once you click on one of the areas of the ladder the exclamation point changes color indicating that you’ve already inspected that section of the ladder. If you try to exit out of the inspection without clicking on all nine sections a box pops up letting you know you did not view all inspection areas and verifying that you want to leave the page before finishing.

                         

The Set Up feature runs through the general rules for setting up the ladder before use such as making sure the ladder is on level footing and visually checking that the rung locking mechanisms are fully engaged before use. The Proper Use section features seven tips for properly using the ladder with illustrations of a stickman using a ladder. These tips include maintaining three points of contact at all times and never standing on the top three rungs of the ladder. The Accessories section is simply illustrations of various ladder accessories and their purpose such as stabilizers and standoffs.


Overall the app worked great. It loads extremely fast and navigation is simple and there is no lag time to load the various features of the app. The app never stalled or crashed while I was using it. The inspection tool is a neat little way to ensure that you take the time to check out the ladder and make sure that everything is working and that there are no broken or missing pieces. I only have the one extension ladder so I didn’t need the selection tool for pressure washing the house but I did play around with it and it’s quick and easy to use if you want to make sure you have the right ladder for the job. The rest of the features contained a lot of useful tips and guides for proper ladder use.

The main feature I used was the measuring tool and I even double checked the accuracy with a protractor to make sure the angle readings were correct and they were dead on every time. I could see this being very useful at the construction worksite for anyone using a ladder. The measuring tool is easy to get to and loads extremely fast taking only seconds to get an accurate check of the ladder angle. To download or learn more about the app go to http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/updates/upd-06-17-13.html.

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