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Dr. Sophia Li, (R), a scientist at UHN's KITE Research Institute, says with the addition of RampLab, her team will be able to "investigate mechanisms related to slips and falls in a variety of situations that closely simulate the real-world shoe surface conditions, which will help with the development of safer footwear." (Photo: KITE Studio at UHN)
Researchers at UHN's KITE Research Institute are aiming to stay one step ahead of slips and falls at home, work and in the community with the introduction of a new simulation laboratory called RampLab.
The new research facility, which is located within KITE's Challenging Environments Assessment Laboratory (CEAL), is designed to add a new dimension to the research institute's existing fall prevention research, a large portion of which takes place in WinterLab and FallsLab.
"Through the creation of RampLab, we have the opportunity to take our proven methods of researching falls and apply them to a broader range of situations," says Dr. Jennifer Campos, CEAL's Chief Scientist, Senior Scientist at KITE and the Canada Research Chair (Tier 2) in Multisensory Integration and Aging.
"We have established a reputation as being a trusted source for informing people about the safety of their footwear," Dr. Campos says. "To date, we have been limited to providing information and recommendations unique to winter situations.
"But there are more situations for which slips could be safety critical in our everyday lives."
Each year, more than 13,000 Canadians are treated in a hospital Emergency Department and 10,000 of those are hospitalized due to fall-related traumatic brain injuries, according to a report from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). The PHAC also found the number of falls-related hospitalizations of older adults has increased by 47 per cent in the past 10 years.
Despite widespread awareness of the problems caused by slips, trips and falls, more research is needed to improve footwear safety, according to Dr. Sophia Li, a scientist at KITE.
"Currently, we don't have enough real-world evidence to study what factors lead one type of footwear to outperform another, or what type of shoes are best suited for kitchen staff navigating wet floors," says Dr. Li, who is also a professor in the Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering at the University of Toronto and specializes in falls prevention research.
"With the addition of Ramplab, I can now investigate mechanisms related to slips and falls in a variety of situations that closely simulate the real-world shoe-surface conditions, which will help with the development of safer footwear."
RampLab has a four-metre-long adjustable ramp that can incline from 0 to 30 degrees on a motion base. It can replicate a variety of slippery scenarios, such as an oily kitchen floor, the slick deck of a fishing boat, or a wet roof. The walkway also supports interchangeable floor surfaces such as quarry tiles, vinyl, wood, aluminum plates and artificial grass in order to provide a comprehensive testing environment.
The research underway in RampLab is expected to help researchers understand how footwear and floor material design can influence falls. Soon a range of stakeholders, from individuals in construction, architecture or anyone attempting some home renovation, will be able to learn about the slip resistance of various flooring surfaces through the Rate My Treads program.
Rate My Treads was created to scientifically evaluate winter footwear offered at retailers across Canada. Scientists use WinterLab to recreate harsh winter conditions in order to assess the slip resistance of footwear in various icy situations.
Thanks to RampLab, Dr. Li and her team will be able to test the slip resistance of different types of flooring and share the results on RateMyTreads.com.
"Soon you'll be able to rate your floor, rate your roof, or even rate your stairs," says Dr. Li, who is also KITE's Strategic Partnerships Manager. "Our goal is to provide clear, research-backed insights that can guide individuals and businesses in making informed decisions about their safety."
RampLab is available for academic, scientific and commercial use. If you are interested in using RampLab please contact Dr. Sophia Li at