Title:
Article of manufacture for improving safety on floating docks
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An article of manufacture for improving the safety on floating docks alongside fixed landing decks or piers with a barrier affixed to the edge of the landing deck, fastening mechanism to mount the barrier to the landing deck, weights affixed to, or embedded into, the bottom part of barrier to ensure contact with the floating dock, and a guiding mechanism such as ropes affixed to landing deck and floating dock to ensure that barrier will always reconnect with the floating dock in case of separation.



Inventors:
Engelhardt, Thomas (Chapel Hill, NC, US)
Drumheller, Gary Edward (Chapel Hill, NC, US)
Application Number:
14/271553
Publication Date:
11/12/2015
Filing Date:
05/07/2014
Assignee:
ENGELHARDT THOMAS
DRUMHELLER GARY EDWARD
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B27/14; E01F13/02; E04F11/18
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20110304823AWNINGDecember, 2011Wensing et al.
20080179017Separator system for a control mechanism of a window covering or window shadeJuly, 2008Yu et al.
20150136341NEONATAL PRIVACY SCREENMay, 2015Bally
20140166216COMBINATION OF ROMAN SHADE AND HONEYCOMB SHADEJune, 2014Hsu et al.
20090078380Damping apparatus for retraction and extension of window shadesMarch, 2009Cheng
20110083371Retractable screen door systemApril, 2011Hughes et al.
20030192653Venetian blind with concealed lift cordsOctober, 2003Nien
20090008041Linkage Rod for a Vertical Window Blind Transmission SeatJanuary, 2009Lin
20140027069Photovoltaic BlindJanuary, 2014Oppizzi
20080277076Window covering deviceNovember, 2008Cheng
20060130980Window covering leveling mechanismJune, 2006Gromotka et al.



Primary Examiner:
JOHNSON, BLAIR M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Thomas Engelhardt (Chapel Hill, NC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An article of manufacture for improving the safety on floating docks comprising: a barrier affixed to the landing deck; a fastening mechanism to mount the barrier to the landing deck; weights affixed to, or embedded into, the bottom part of the barrier to ensure contact with the floating dock; and guiding devices affixed to landing deck and floating dock to ensure that the barrier will always reconnect with the floating dock in case of separation.

2. The barrier of claim 1 wherein the barrier is made of flexible material.

3. The barrier of claim 2 wherein the material is textile fabric, impregnated textile fabric, plastic membranes, flexible composite material, or metal mesh.

4. The barrier of claim 3 wherein the barrier material is colored or patterned.

5. The fastening mechanism of claim 1 wherein the fastener is a hook, clip, screw, nail or bolt.

6. The fastening mechanism of claim 1 wherein the fastener is a rail.

7. The fastening mechanism of claim 1 wherein the fastener includes an extender that ensures a minimum distance of deck and barrier.

8. The extender of claim 7 wherein the extender is made of flexible material such as rubber, plastic, plastic foam, or rubber or plastic tubes.

9. The extender of claim 8 wherein the extender has a round shape

10. The weights of claim 1 wherein the weights are in compartments, embedded in, or are attached to the bottom of the barrier.

11. The weights of claim 10 wherein the weights are liquids, sand, gravel, stones, or metal in the form of pellets, rods, disc and other shapes.

12. The guiding devices of claim 1 wherein these devices are elastic ropes, cords or wires.

13. The guiding devices of claim 12 wherein the device material is colored or patterned.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

Not Applicable

STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT

Not Applicable

DESCRIPTION OF ATTACHED APPENDIX

Not Applicable

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates generally to the field of marine safety and more specifically to an article of manufacture for improving safety on floating docks. Floating docks are a standard feature along the coast line and on lakes and rivers. Access is usually provided by gangways or ramps that rest on the floating dock, or via stairs or ladders from an stationary adjacent structure such as a landing deck, pier or house. This combination of stationary landing deck or pier and floating dock is very common along the US East Coast.

The floating dock is held in place via dock brackets which allows for vertical movement whereas keeping the floating dock at a defined distance from the landing deck. This gap is usually in the range of 3-6″ between the two platforms. Depending on the water level in a lake or river or the tidal hub on the coast line, the landing deck is usually designed to be a certain height above the floating dock. As a result there will be gap between the lower end of the landing deck and the surface of the floating dock. Waves will cause vertical movement of the floating dock and increase or decrease this gap. Depending on the size of the gap and the magnitude of vertical movement, any object reaching into this gap will get caught by this scissor-like contraption. This is a significant safety hazard for people and animals alike which has not been addressed so far.

Guard rails as disclosed for example in patents U.S. Pat. No. 6,702,259 and U.S. Pat. No. 6,681,432 are a common feature of decks and walkways and would address this safety hazard if installed on the side of the floating dock that faces the landing deck and at a minimum distance from the edge of the floating dock. Safety guards as disclosed for example in U.S. Pat. No. 3,740,022 and U.S. Pat. No. 3,839,824 are commonly used on loading docks and could be used on floating docks as well. The guard rails or barriers would need to be designed in a way that does not allow people or animals to reach through and could be, for example, made of a tight mesh or a solid surface. The major disadvantage of these barrier solutions is that the safety hazard is not fully addressed. At lower water levels objects can still be caught between the top of the rail or barrier and the landing deck. Another disadvantage of a guard rail or rigid barrier is that it will rise with the floating dock when water levels are rising and create an unsightly new tripping hazard.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The primary object of the invention is to provide a safety device for floating docks which prevents objects to fall into or to extend body parts through the gap between floating dock and landing deck.

Another object of the invention is to provide a safety device for floating docks which works for rectangular, curved and angular floating docks.

Another object of the invention is to provide a safety device for floating docks that follows the motion of floating docks without manual adjustment of the device.

Another object of the invention is to provide a safety device for floating docks that is both a visual and physical barrier.

A further object of the invention is to provide a safety device for floating docks that can be integrated into the design of landing decks and floating docks.

Other objects and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following descriptions, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein, by way of illustration and example, an embodiment of the present invention is disclosed.

In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the invention, there is disclosed an article of manufacture for improving the safety on floating docks comprising: a barrier affixed to the edge of the landing deck, a fastening mechanism to mount the barrier to the landing deck, several weights affixed to, or embedded into, the bottom part of barrier to ensure contact with the floating dock, and a guiding device such as elastic ropes or wires affixed to landing deck and floating dock to ensure that the barrier will always reconnect with the floating dock in case of separation.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL VIEWS OF THE DRAWING

The drawings constitute a part of this specification and include exemplary embodiments to the invention, which may be embodied in various forms. It is to be understood that in some instances various aspects of the invention may be shown exaggerated or enlarged to facilitate an understanding of the invention.

FIG. 1 is a cross sectional view of the landing deck and floating dock and illustrates the danger the gap between the two structures poses.

FIG. 2 is a cross sectional view of the landing deck, floating dock and flexible barrier to illustrate the barrier function.

FIG. 3 is a cross sectional view of the flexible barrier attached to the the landing deck at normal water level.

FIG. 4 is a cross sectional view of the flexible barrier attached to the landing deck at low water level.

FIG. 5 is a cross sectional view of the rail fastener with extender that attaches the flexible barrier to the landing deck and ensures that the barrier stays within a defined distance from the edge of the landing deck.

FIG. 6 is shows how guiding ropes or wires hold the barrier in place and act as support to the barrier function of the flexible barrier at normal water level.

FIG. 7 is shows how guiding ropes or wires hold the barrier in place and act as support to the barrier function of the flexible barrier at low water level.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

Detailed descriptions of the preferred embodiment are provided herein. It is to be understood, however, that the present invention may be embodied in various forms. Therefore, specific details disclosed herein are not to be interpreted as limiting, but rather as a basis for the claims and as a representative basis for teaching one skilled in the art to employ the present invention in virtually any appropriately detailed system, structure or manner.

Turning first to FIG. 1 there is shown a schematic view of a landing deck (2) with a floating dock (3) held in place by dock brackets (17) to illustrate the safety hazard addressed by this invention. The vertical gap (1) between landing deck (2) and floating dock (3) varies depending on water level (4) and vertical movement caused by waves or sudden weight shifts on the floating dock (3). Whenever the upper edge of the floating dock (3) comes close to, or passes the lower edge of the landing deck (2), any object (5) that extends over the edge of the floating dock (3) is at risk to be caught in a scissor-like movement of the two structures as shown in FIG. 1 which may result in serious injury or death.

In accordance with the present invention, FIG. 2 shows the design of this safety barrier which addresses this safety hazard. A flexible barrier (6) attached to the landing deck (2) effectively covers the gap (1) between landing deck (2) and floating dock (3). The flexible barrier (6) may be a sturdy, but flexible fabric, membrane, thick foil, mesh or net. Depending on the type of skirt, material such as tarp or rubber may be used. Metal is an option if the deck skirt is a flexible mesh or net. The flexible barrier (6) functions both as physical barrier to hold back objects and as visual warning signal for people getting too close to a hazardous area. The invention offers options to increase the barrier function of the device. In its most basic version, a lightweight flexible barrier (6) is mounted to the edge of the landing deck (2) by means of a fastening device (7) and held down by weights (8) embedded or attached to the lower end of the flexible barrier (6). Depending on the stiffness of the flexible barrier (6) and amount of weights (8) used, this version of the flexible barrier (6) will be able to block and hold back small objects (5) from getting too close to the gap (1) between landing deck (2) and floating dock (3).

Turning to FIG. 3, it is shown that the flexible barrier (6) is mounted to the landing deck (2) via a fastening device (7) that affixes the flexible barrier (6) and holds an extender (11) which ensures that the barrier (6) extends a certain distance A (9) from the edge of the landing deck (2). Distance A (9) has to be bigger than distance B (10) to ensure that the flexible barrier (6) always rests on the floating dock (3) and is held in place by weights (8). The extender (11), is either elastic or hinged in such way that it does not interfere with vertical movement of the floating dock (3). The fastening device (7) can attach the flexible barrier (6) to the landing deck (2) at as many locations as needed to securely hold the barrier (6) in place as shown in FIG. 3. By means of using a fastening device (7) with an extender (11) and weights (8) the flexible barrier (6) will settle back on the floating dock (3) after separation from the floating dock (3) due to low water levels or movement caused by larger waves.

Turning to FIG. 4, it is shown how the flexible barrier (6) is held in position above the floating dock (3) at a distance A (9) from the landing deck (2) by the extender (11) and the weights (8) at low water levels even when not in contact with the floating dock (3). The distance C (20) between the lower surface of the landing deck (3) and the end of the flexible barrier (6) is the design safety limit which is specific for a location on a river or lake. Low water levels may cause the floating dock (3) to be for example at a distance D (19) outside the design safety limit (20). At this point typical and regular vertical movement of the floating dock (3) does not pose a hazard since the distance D (19) is too big for the landing deck (2) and the floating dock (3) to form a scissor-like contraption.

Another embodiment of this fastening device under this invention is shown in FIG. 5 where the flexible barrier (6) is attached to the landing deck (2) with a fastener in the form of a rail (7), that runs partially or fully along the landing deck (2). This fastener (7) is attached to the landing deck (2) for example with screws, bolts, or clamps and holds the flexible barrier (6) in place. The flexible barrier (6) is fed through an opening (18) in the fastener (7) and secured in place by a rod (13) inside a pocket (14) of the flexible barrier (6). Round shaped flexible material, the extender (11), is affixed to the fastener (7) via the extender base (12), runs under the flexible barrier (6) and keeps it at a defined distance A (9) from the edge of the landing deck (2). The material of the extender (11) is flexible enough not to block vertical movement of the floating dock (3), but sturdy enough to keep the flexible barrier at the desired distance A (9) from the floating dock (2). The distance B (10) between the edges of the landing deck (2) and floating dock (3) defines the minimum size of the extender (11).

The flexible barrier can be strenghtened by using a combination of elastic ropes (16) that are attached to the landing deck (2) and floating dock (3) and run through the flexible barrier (6) as shown in FIG. 6. The function of these guiding ropes (16) is twofold, i.e. (a) they act as guides for the flexible barrier (6) to keep it in place and (b) they strengthen the barrier function of the whole installation. The barrier function of the flexible barrier (6) can be modified by changing the number and thickness of guiding ropes (16). In accordance with an important feature of the present invention, there is shown in FIG. 6, how elastic guiding wires or ropes (16) running between landing deck (2) and floating dock (3) both guide the flexible barrier (6) into a defined area on the floating dock (3) and act as restraining device. Weights (8) attached to or embedded in the bottom of the flexible barrier (6) ensure that it rests on the surface of the floating dock (3) at all times within the design safety limit of the flexible barrier (6).

Turning to FIG. 7, it is shown how the flexible barrier (6) is held in position above the floating dock (3) by the guiding ropes (16) at low water levels even when not in contact with the floating dock (3). Weights (8) ensure that the flexible barrier (6) extends fully and covers the distance C (20) between the lower surface of the landing deck (3) and the end of the flexible barrier (6). The distance C (20), the design safety limit, depends on typical changes of water levels and is specific for a location on a river or lake. Low water levels cause the floating dock (3) to be for example at a distance D (19) outside the design safety limit (20). At this point typical and regular vertical movement of the floating dock (3) does not pose a hazard since the landing deck (2) and the floating dock (3) can't form a scissor-like contraption at the distance D (19).

While the invention has been described in connection with a preferred embodiment, it is not intended to limit the scope of the invention to the particular form set forth, but on the contrary, it is intended to cover such alternatives, modifications, and equivalents as may be included within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the appended claims.