Saturday, January 14, 2017

Snowflake Scale: Safer winter footwear

Every year, more than 20,000 Ontarians visit the emergency room due to injuries related to falling on ice or snow. A recent Toronto Public Health report revealed that over 40 per cent of those aged 35-59 years and 60 per cent of those aged 60-85 years said they would go out less as a way to cope with the winter weather. A team of researchers from the iDAPT labs at Toronto Rehabilitation Institute-University Health Network in Canada are working to keep people safer in winter by producing footwear to reduce the risk of slips and falls on ice.

The team has developed 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. Testing in WinterLab is completed on both bare ice and melting ice to simulate diverse outdoor surfaces. Combined with walking uphill and downhill, four conditions were tested for each pair of footwear. The overall score was based on the minimum performance over the four conditions.

From the published results, from the 98 differerent types of footwear tested only eight per cent met 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. 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. The 'snowflake' scale will be used to rate the slip-resistance of winter footwear.

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