Hand and Foot Forces in Occupational Railcar Ascent

Hand and Foot Forces in Occupational Railcar Ascent


Falls from ladders are a major cause of worker injuries and fatalities. It is common for railroad employees to mount and dismount railcars utilizing hand holds and steps dissimilar from common ladders. Most tank cars provide one hand hold for use with both hands while mounting and dismounting the equipment, and the first step (known as the stirrup) is typically higher than those found on common ladders. Given that falls from ladders can result from one or more factors acting together or independently, this study aimed to quantify the forces exerted while climbing onto a common tank car.


Participants free of known movement disorders participated in the study. The geometry of the available hand hold and foot positions in the testing setup were built to match the geometry of the railcar. Participants were instructed to mount the equipment beginning at ground level using both hands on the hand hold. The hand hold, ground, and stirrup were instrumented to record the forces exerted.


The hands were the primary means for support and stabilization after the initial whole body pull. This is consistent with current studies which indicated that hand forces peak at the beginning and end of each reach when ascending a traditional ladder. The feet were the primary means for supporting the dynamic forces and bodyweight. Each participants utilized the foot on the ground to accelerate the body upwards to transfer their weight to the foot on the stirrup.

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