How 'a couple of Alberta boys' developed a potentially lifesaving coverall modification
Stepbrothers Kris McLeod and Mike Rutten mulled idea for a decade
It started as an idea so simple, stepbrothers Kris McLeod and Mike Rutten were sure it already existed: Two cloth shoulder loops attached to a harness that is then sewn into coveralls.
The loops allow the person wearing the coveralls to be easily dragged to safety in the event they fall unconscious or are seriously injured.
The two came up with the design — which McLeod dubbed "draggin' hooks" — based on decades working at blue collar job sites throughout Alberta surrounded by hazardous materials such as the poisonous and corrosive gas hydrogen sulfide.
"I've worked in the oil patch for 25 years," Rutten said. "I've heard of so many instances of guys going down and then their buddy goes in to save them and they can't do it.
"Some of the safety stuff that goes out there, it almost impedes the guy, but this seems like a system that wouldn't affect you at all."
I don't know how big it'll get.I actually hope it just gets out there so it saves some guy's life.- Mike Rutten, Draggin' Hooks co-creator
They talked about the concept for more than a decade before deciding to create a prototype in early 2018, Rutten said.
The two glued a harness into an old pair of coveralls, recruiting a friend to stitch the fabric together. They then took turns dragging each other around Rutten's property in Sherwood Park, Alta.
Their handmade harness worked so well, they contacted a Canadian licensing agency to ask if similarly modified coveralls were already on the market, Rutten said.
About four weeks later, an agency representative called back to confirm nobody had yet patented the idea.
The weeks that followed were a crescendo of activity on the simple design they had quietly mulled for years, Rutten said.
A patent is now pending for Draggin' Hooks. A promotional video, shared by Rutten to his 240 Facebook friends last Saturday, exploded with more than 7,000 shares and 337,000 views.
"We're just a couple of Alberta boys," Rutten said. "I don't know how big it'll get. I actually hope it just gets out there so it saves some guy's life."
Draggin' Hooks needs a manufacturer before it can be mass-produced for retailers, said Vince Kehoe, president of Innovative Licensing & Promotion, Inc., which is handling the licence and patent.
The process could take up to five years, he said. Even so, Kehoe said he has fielded requests for the finished product from companies as far away as Jordan in the Middle East.
"We're getting calls from all over the world from oilfield companies, which is strange because we haven't even made a phone call yet," Kehoe said.
"Usually what we do is we put together a database of 20 companies and we might call those companies for months before we even find someone who's interested, but in this particular case the product has just shown up on Facebook and now these manufacturers and interested parties are calling us."
The sudden success of their backyard-experiment-gone-right has left Rutten and McLeod hopeful they will soon wear Draggin' Hooks to work themselves.
"As far as striking gold, we never really thought about that. We just thought we'd see if we could get it out there ... it was more kind of just wanting a better workplace," Rutten said.
"We're just kind of hoping to get a licensing agreement with somebody, like a big company that can actually manufacture and get them out to somebody because I'm not very good on a sewing machine."