Tish Fearn, winner of the 2003 British Female Inventor of the Year award, wasn’t about to let tendonitis force her to quit taking care of horses. The South Africa native, who was born without a left hand, had been using a traditional shaving fork to muck out the stables at the National Equine Defence Society in Birkin, U.K. for years, and the task was becoming increasingly arduous.
Fearn, who was devoted to the organization she started in the early 1990s to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-home horses, donkeys, and ponies, was compelled to take action. She was tired of using a heavy fork, which put a great deal of stress on the user's back, neck, and arm and put them at risk for a repetitive strain injury. She began working on the design for the “Lite-Lift Fork,” which she hoped would help ease the burden for herself and others.
The fork, which took 12 years to develop, was created with the help of the Product Development Team in the School of Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University. The team helped Fearn design and manufacture the prototype, which was made to evenly distribute the weight of any object being lifted. Its shaft bends at various points, reducing the user’s need to bend. A second handle can be positioned for users of various heights and according to whether they are left- or right-handed.
The Lite-Lift fork is also very light and can be modified by interchanging heads for performing farming, industrial, and household tasks such as brushing, hoeing, raking, or mopping. It can also be used for shoveling grain or snow.
After twelve years of development, the Lite-Lift, patented internationally, was launched in October 2002 and is now available throughout the U.K. as well as in the United States. It is sold by mail order around the world. Fearn and the team at Sheffield Hallam also developed a shovel to be used for mucking out stable yards and paddocks.