A Kiama Downs paramedic who has seen firsthand the devastating effects of wobbly extension ladders has invented a fix that is now in contention for an industry award.
David Kay conceived the idea 16 years ago but only recently set about the serious business of prototypes and patents after collaborating with a friend, Kiama Downs engineer Daniel Seidel.
The product, called the Lacket, is now a finalist in the 2017 WorkSafe Awards, to be decided later this month.
Mr Kay said the appeal of the tension spring and toggle lever device lay in its ability to remain attached to the ladder in between uses, ready to go.
“It sits underneath the fascia and is jammed in place,” Mr Kay said.
“The basic concept is like jamming a chair under a door handle so there’s no physical way for it to fall backwards or sideways.
“I refer to the Lacket as a big paperclip moment, because it just seemed too simple for no one to ever have thought of it before.”
The device also tackled the problem of how to secure the top end of a ladder while the user is still on the ground.
“Anyone who uses an extension ladder is supposed to secure the top and the bottom of the ladder,” Mr Kay said.
“But there’s nothing to tie off to at the top. If you talk to WorkCover, their suggestion is to remove roof tiles and tie to the rafter, or drill into the fascia, screw an eye bolt to the fascia and tie off to that.
“Due to the difficulty ... most people don’t bother.”
Mr Kay said he was motivated to follow through with developing the device partly because of his observations on the job. He has seen several people seriously injured after falling from ladders.
“Rehabilitation for all of these injuries is extensive,” he said.
“Quite often the injury occurs when people are at work, so it impacts on their employment, and it impacts on economics in general, with insurance companies.”
The pair created a prototype and commissioned an independent engineer to carry out testing. They considered using a Chinese-based manufacturer before opting for a plastics manufacturer in Nelson Bay. They intend to make the aluminium parts themselves.
With a patent in place and the device set to retail for $250, there is a chance Mr Kay will be able to quit his day job off the back of the humble Lacket – but he won’t.
“I love being a paramedic, so I don’t think I’ll ever give that away,” he said. “Maybe just the night shift.”
The device can be pre-ordered online, but won’t be available until mid-2018.
The WorkSafe awards will be announced on October 26. The Lacket is one of hundreds of entries, and one of four finalists.