Now that the Rehabilitation Engineering Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) has updated the WC18 standards for wheelchair tie-down and occupant restraint systems (WTORS) set to take effect in December 2015, manufacturers of wheelchair and occupant restraint systems, as well as student transporters, are on notice to comply.
WC19 was the first industry standard in the U.S. for wheelchair manufacturers to address the design and performance of wheelchairs used as seats in motor vehicles, while WC18 directs the systems used to secure the wheelchairs in a personal or commercial vehicle.
The existing WC18 standard requires that WTORS withstand a sled impact test using a 30mph/20g crash pulse, a 187-lb. surrogate wheelchair and a 170-lb. midsize adult male crash-test dummy where the lap belt is anchored to the vehicle. Yet new WC19 standards now require an optional wheelchair–anchored lap belt to hold the occupant into place in order to address the higher wheelchair forces that would be conducted to the tie-down or securement systems when that lap belt is utilized.
Consequently, RESNA developed the new WC18 standard to requires WTORS to withstand the increased forces generated during a second impact test, in which the 170-lb. crash-test dummy is restrained by a lap belt that is anchored to the surrogate wheelchair instead of the vehicle itself.
“Manufacturers of wheelchair and occupant restraint systems and those responsible for transporting people dependent on wheelchairs are planning now for the new safety regulations,” said Bob Joseph, vice president of business development at Q’Straint, which specializes in developing solutions for wheelchair passenger travel. “One way to ensure compliance with the new WC18 standards by the December 2015 deadline is to consider equipment upgrades to transportation fleets and personal mobility vehicles in advance.”
Q’Straint introduced the QRT-360 (pictured), the first retractor to meet the requirements. It is the first four-point, heavy-duty, fully automatic retractable tie-down system engineered and built to perform well in the required 30mph frontal crash test when a wheelchair passenger is traveling in a motor vehicle and is using the optional lap belt. The company said the QRT-360 also offers a shortened retractor footprint that allows for more flexibility in vehicle anchor-point locations to better accommodate large wheelchairs. It is compatible with a variety of wheelchairs and also works in school buses as well as other vehicles.
In addition, the self-tensioning tie-down system automatically tightens the straps during minor wheelchair movements that occur during travel to eliminate slack. The belts continue to tighten during low-g vehicle accelerations, which further minimizes the potential for wheelchair insecurity in the event of a collision. The newly redesigned webbing used in this system is twice as strong as the material used in other WTORS, according to Q’Straint.
“The benefits of the new WC18 standards address not only improved passenger safety but also offer a more efficient and independent securement process,” added Joseph. “All industry transit providers and those with private vehicles should begin their preparations for complying and update themselves on the new standards and the products that meet these standards.”