Springbelt is hard to miss
When the New Zealand government mandated the use of seatbelts on all mobile mechanical plant, Don Wilkinson realised that unless it was easy for operators to locate and use seatbelts, his peers were in for an uphill battle.
So, he came up with Springbelt, a solution which he says is a "quick, easy and highly visible way to increased safety".
Wilkinson concedes that although his design has made seatbelts easier to use, there's no quick fix as operators try to find new ways to avoid using them. "Springbelts have occasionally suffered from deliberate abuse by operators who strain to push them to the floor, thereby overcoming the compulsion to put them on," he says. But he is not giving up: "We now have a mounting which springs up again and again and can't be pushed down."
Another innovation is a more comfortable fit that suits any operator - skinny or fat, he adds.
Industrial Seatbelts, an associated company, manufactures and distributes the products in New Zealand, while Victorian manufacturer APV Safety manufactures the seatbelt for domestic and international distribution.
Despite its effectiveness and ease of use, the product has not yet been taken up by any of the major OEMs, so Springbelts are commonly retrofitted at the request of the owner or forklift purchaser. Wilkinson says some OEM suppliers actually retro fit them to new equipment before sale as a "point of difference".
APV also has a supply deal with Belgium-based international parts giant TVH, which should see the product expand globally.
According to Wilkinson, his invention has enjoyed widescale adoption at Australasian airports, with around 8,000 fitted to airport tugs and airside vehicles in Australia and a similar market saturation across the Tasman.