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Balance control during lateral load transfers over a slippery surface

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Few studies have measured balance control during manual material handling, and even fewer with environmental cofactors. This study examined the effect of different surface frictions during a stationary manual material handling task. Thirty-six healthy participants completed 180° lateral transfer tasks of a load over high- and low-friction surfaces (μ = 0.86 and μ = 0.16, respectively). Balance measures, stance kinematics and lower extremity muscle activities were measured. Success during the novel slippery surface dichotomised our population, allowing us to investigate beneficial techniques to lateral load transfers over the slippery surface. Stance width reduction by 8 cm and 15° of additional external foot rotation towards the load were used to counter the imbalance created by the slippery surface. There was no clear alteration to lower extremity muscular control to adapt to a slippery surface. Changes in stance seemed to be used successfully to counter a slippery surface during lateral load transfers.

Statement of Relevance: Industries requiring manual material handling where slippery conditions are potentially present have a noticeable increase in injuries. This study suggests stance configuration, more so than any other measure of balance control, differentiates vulnerability to imbalance during material handling over a slippery surface.
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Keywords: balance control; falls; friction; manual materials handling; slips

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Physical Therapy,University of Evansville, EvansvilleIN, USA 2: Center for Physical Ergonomics, Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, HopkintonMA, USA 3: Department of Environmental Health,Harvard School of Public Health, BostonMA, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2011

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