Device helps firefighters get a grip

Ron Komorowski always knew he would invent something big.

Even as a toddler he would opt for making something himself rather than playing with pre-made toys.

So when a herniated disk threatened to render the former construction worker unemployed, Komorowski used his inventive nature to work his way out of a bind.

"I was going to the chiropractor, but it never helped with the herniated disk," he said. "So I started taking it upon myself to learn about the back."

Komorowski began researching and developing the prototype of an invention that he hoped would revolutionize the way people took care of their backs. The process of developing the product, which he called Handi-Straps, took six years in all.

Komorowski came up with mechanism consisting of padded shoulder straps similar in form to a backpack that criss-cross at the back. Two strips of webbing with rubberized hand loops for optimal grip at the ends extend from the shoulder straps, while a third strip of webbing runs across the chest right under the breast bone.

After coming up with the basic design for Handi-Straps, Komorowski partnered with Texas fall protection company Web Devices and then-owner Mike Parker to manufacture the product. It took several rounds of development, but the two eventually settled on a design that worked.

After the launch of Handi-Straps, Popular Mechanics ran a review of the product. They were skeptical at best about the Handi-Strap’s potential, leading off the review with, "This sounds like a scam." However, once magazine staffers tried it, they were believers.

"When we tried carrying boxes, buckets and even a co-worker," the article goes on to say, "the straps connected to our wrists went taut before our arms could fully extend, distributing the load throughout the harness."

The seemingly simple design of Handi-Straps belies its effectiveness. The design is meant to help transfer the weight of an object a person is carrying from their arms and lower back to their shoulders and upper back. According to Komorowski, this minimizes the risk of injury to smaller ligaments and joints in wrists and arms as well as the shoulders and lumbar region of the spine.

"The product is magical," he said. "It’s helping disabled people, people with MS, strokes, torn rotator cuffs."

Despite skepticism over the product’s simplicity and minimal marketing efforts to date by Web Devices, the product has been sold around the globe, including Canada, Australia and Japan.

Although he says Handi-Straps is a good tool for almost anyone, Komorowski said it is particularly relevant for first responders due to the physical nature of their jobs. He gives police officers, firefighters, EMS professionals and members of the military a discount on Handi-Straps’ $60 price tag.

Preliminary and ongoing testing with military, EMS, fire and police personnel has shown Handi-Straps can improve safety for both rescue personnel and victim and may speed up transportation of the victim by hand, according to Web Devices

It’s also a cost-effective way of reducing worker injuries and the cost of maintaining an injured employee. According to ErgoMed Work Systems, an injury prevention company that tested Handi-Straps, the average cost of a lumbar disc disorder ranges anywhere between $40,000 to $80,000 dollars per claim.

Komorowski says profits from Handi-Straps sales will go back into the development pot.

"Any money I make is going back into products to help people," said Komorowski, who is currently in the process of developing another device that will help people with limited or complete immobility be able to hold and use pens and pencils.

"The simple truth is you have to keep going forward," he said. "It’s going to save lives."

For more information on Handi-Straps, visit To order Handi-Straps, call 1-800-262-4891

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