I was the innovation keynote speaker this week for the St. Louis Safety Conference on the topic of safety inventions and I realized this is one of the most important industries for inventors. A great safety invention could save lives and ultimately change the world.
Inventors often spot problems that other people miss. So safety professionals are in a unique position to know what those problems are and come up with solutions for them that will solve their own problems and solve safety problems for millions of people around the world.
Many people would agree that the most important safety invention in history is the invention of sanitation. Clean water and waste removal has saved more lives than any other safety invention, and more than doubled our life expectancy.
As early as 300 BC Ancient Romans devised a system of aqueducts to provide some citizens fresh running water which was piped into homes and public fountains and baths. But the first septic tank wasn’t invented until 1860.
Today there are still hundreds of millions of people around the world who don’t even have access to clean water. But a simple solution was found in the Lifestraw, which has an advanced filter to get rid of almost all microbiological contaminants in order to make water safe to drink. It was designed to help people who don’t have access to safe water and in emergency situations when water is contaminated. The Lifestraw adapted to the limitations of the situation – we don’t have to purify ALL of the water, but just enough for a person to drink.
One of the most important safety inventions in history is the three point seatbelt, invented by Nils Bohlin. The original seatbelt was invented to keep pilots in their gliders and the first patented seat belt was invented to keep tourists safe in taxis in New York City. Race car drivers were the first to wear seat belts to protect against serious injuries.
The three-point seatbelt protects both the upper and lower body. Like many inventions, his seat belt design was both simple and effective, saving millions of lives.
The invention process is always evolving and improving, so it makes sense that the seat belt design would too. Ford is now testing an inflatable safety belt that contains an airbag which would inflate on impact.
The design of the hand saw is also changing. Many inventions go back pretty far in history and that’s how it is with the saw. Saws made of copper go back as far as 3100 BC but it’s Chinese engineer and carpenter Lu Ban who gets the credit for inventing the saw. He came from a family of carpenters, who didn’t have saws during that time period. They had to use axes to cut the wood, which was very time consuming.
The design of the saw is now evolving again. Portable band saws have always been heavy and bulky, requiring two hands to hold them steady. Lately, the size and weight of power tools has decreased because of the conversion from corded to cordless, making them capable of being held one-handed while dangerously steadying pipe in the other.
But Rosendin, the electrical contracting industry’s largest employee-owned firm, discovered that these product improvements had an unexpected safety risk to its employees. They noticed that once the natural pipe resistance was gone as it was cut through, the saw would jerk downward until the operator could remove his fingers from the blade’s single trigger. This created a risk of the saw striking the worker’s now free hand to reach across, under the moving blade, in an attempt to catch the falling piece of material, resulting in injuries to the person using it.
Rosendin set out to find a solution to this safety risk, thinking if the saw required two hands to operate, the risk to employees would be greatly reduced. With two hands operating the saw, there would be no risk that one hand could come in contact with the saw blade while it was moving.
The company reached out to professional tool maker DEWALT about creating a new design. DEWALT designed and developed a new band saw, where two separate hands are needed to push dual switches before the motor will turn on in order to operate the band saw. The clever new safety invention is built so that users cannot outsmart or overide the dual switch safety feature.
Rosendin hopes to lessen workplace injuries and they are doing their part. They are already seeing a reduction in equipment-related injuries in the workplace.
About Rosendin Electric
Rosendin Electric, headquartered in San Jose, Calif., is an employee-owned electrical contractor. With revenues upwards of $2 billion, Rosendin is one of the largest electrical contractors in the United States employing over 6,000 people. For 100 years, Rosendin has created a reputation for building quality electrical and communications installations, building value for clients, and building people within the company. For more information, visit www.rosendin.com.
DEWALT is obsessed with how users work in the real world and is relentlessly pursuing total jobsite solutions. By incorporating its latest technology and industry innovations, DEWALT is leading the charge for the jobsite of the future. DEWALT products. GUARANTEED TOUGH®. For more information, visit www.dewalt.com or follow DEWALT on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.