Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction


Date of this Version



36th International Symposium on Automation and Robotics in Construction (ISARC 2019)


Falling from elevated surfaces is the main cause of death and injury at construction sites. Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports, an average of nearly three workers per day suffer fatal injuries from falling. Studies show that postural instability is the foremost cause of this disproportional falling rate. To study what affects the postural stability of construction workers, we conducted a series of experiments in the virtual reality (VR). Twelve healthy adults—all students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln—were recruited for this study. During each trial, participants’ heart rates and postural sways were measured as the dependent factors. The independent factors included a moving structural beam (MB) coming directly at the participants, the presence of VR, height, the participants’ self-judgment of fear, and their level of acrophobia. The former was designed in an attempt to simulate some part of the steel erection procedure, which is one of the key tasks of ironworkers. The results of this study indicate that height increase the postural sway. Self-judged fear significantly was found to decrease postural sway, more specifically the normalized total excursion of the center of pressure (TE), both in the presence and absence of height. Also, participants’ heart rates significantly increase once they are confronted by a moving beam in the virtual environment (VE), even though they are informed that the beam will not ‘hit’ them. The findings of this study can be useful for training novice ironworkers that will be subjected to height and/or steel erection for the first time.