An ergonomic assessment of ladder climbing: key risks to technicians in the offshore wind industry

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Introduction: Previous assessments on ladder climbing have focused on short duration climbs involving multiple ascents and descents. The short nature of the climbs makes it difficult to generalise the findings to Wind Technicians (WT). The aim of this ethically approved study was to undertake a detailed ergonomic assessment of ladder climbing, identifying the key risks and determine if the current assessments of fitness were appropriate for assessing ladder climbing ability.

Methods: Following consent, ten Novice climbers (1 = female; 9 = male) and seven WT (2 = female; 5 = male) were tested. Climbers undertook 3x120 m climbs separated by approximately 1.5 hrs. Grip strength, grip endurance and manual dexterity were measured before and after the 120 m climbs. During the climbs oxygen consumption, heart rate, muscle activation and joint movements were recorded. For the first climb WT (not novices) wore a sea survival suit; all remaining climbs were conducted in overalls, personal protective equipment and climbing harness.

Results: Grip strength, endurance and manual dexterity were significantly (p < 0.05) impaired by ladder climbing. With multiple climbs, toe clearance from the ladder was reduced (Climb 1 – 0.0515 m; Climb 3 – 0.046 m), and participants changed their technique to reach higher (shoulder angle: Climb 1 – 117°; Climb 3 – 136°). Novices demonstrated less range of movement through the hips (Novices – 46°; WT – 58°), and higher muscle activation in the upper body (Novices – 60%; WT – 49%). Subjective feedback supported the objective data that fatigue in the forearms was the greatest limiting factor. This fatigue was noted to last several days, suggesting that cumulative fatigue could impact on performance and increase injury risk.

Conclusions: This was the first study to examine ladder climbing over a distance of 120 m with repeated climbs throughout the day. The physical demands of ladder climbing are not adequately assessed by current fitness tests. When comparing WT to Novices it was clear that experience improved performance, reduced the physiological burden and maintained optimal movement patterns for longer. Therefore, to optimise the well-being and reduce the risk of injuries, new WT and those that climb infrequently, would benefit from a training package that focuses on climbing technique.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018
Event3rd International Conference on Physical Employment Standards - Portsmouth, United Kingdom
Duration: 17 Jul 201819 Jul 2018


Conference3rd International Conference on Physical Employment Standards
Abbreviated titlePES 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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