Minnesota Cities Magazine
More from May-Jun 2017 issue

Two-Way Street: Has Your City Received an OSHA Grant?

Vance Swisher of the City of StewartvilleVANCE SWISHER
Stewartville (Population 6,252)

The City of Stewartville recently received two grants from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

The Fire Department received a $7,500 OSHA grant to purchase extrication equipment, including a new battery-operated cutter and spreader. The city contributed $9,000 to the purchase. Without the OSHA grant, the project likely would have been delayed by two years.

New equipment lightens staff’s load
Along with a simple application, the grant process required that we undergo a fire department ergonomic survey to identify suggestions for safety improvements. The survey told us that because of the shape and weight of the hydraulic compressor, the staff members were at an elevated risk for strains and sprains. In small towns with light staffing, we end up with one person carrying a two-person item, and this can lead to unnecessary injuries.

The cutter and spreader will cut the weight of essential tools and materials by over 40 pounds per unit. This will not only reduce injuries among the firefighters, but will also reduce the number of people needed to operate the tools.

New equipment to flush and test hydrants
Stewartville Public Works Supervisor Sean Hale was also successful this year in obtaining OSHA grant funding for a Hydrant Buddy valve exerciser. The cost was about $4,500, and the OSHA grant covered $2,250.

The city has approximately 400 hydrants, which must be flushed twice per year to test flow and pressure and to maintain water clarity and quality. Flushing hydrants puts staff in an injury-vulnerable position.

Improved safety and morale
The new equipment will provide a safer working experience for at least three full-time staff members. The Hydrant Buddy also increases effectiveness by offering a consistent gradual shutdown of valves. This prevents “hydro hammers,” which can ultimately lead to water main breaks.

In addition to increasing safety, the Hydrant Buddy will significantly improve morale for the Public Works team. That increases both job satisfaction and productivity.

Stewartville probably would have gotten a Hydrant Buddy eventually, even without the grant. But the grant money expedited the purchase, which benefits Stewartville as well as two other communities that share the equipment.

Mat Von Bank of the City of VictoriaMAT VONBANK
Victoria (Population 8,775)

A few years ago, we learned there is assistance through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for purchasing needed safety equipment or providing training. We had recently had a public works ergonomics survey with the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust, and our loss control consultant had recommended safety equipment that would benefit us as a public works department.

Preparation for application
Through OSHA’s Safety Grant Program, we chose to pursue the items that the loss control consultant suggested. These safety grants match 50 percent of the cost of the equipment.

We did an evaluation on how each specific piece of equipment would be used, and how the equipment would increase safety and reduce the risk of a workers’ compensation claim. After this process, we did some research to find the equipment that would best fit our needs.

Clear, intuitive process
Once we had this information, we started filling out the grant application. The grant application process was very intuitive—it was clear what each section of the application required. We have used this grant process three times now and have had great success. We have received grants to purchase multiple pieces of equipment, including:

  • A hydraulic manhole lifter that mounts on the front of one of our trucks to lift manhole lids along with stubborn catch basin grates.
  • A Tommy Gate hydraulic lift gate to help us with the loading of various heavy items.
  • A four-gas air monitor so we can ensure safe entry into confined spaces.
  • A gas-powered post pounder for the installation of street signs.
  • A Hydrant Buddy for mechanically opening and closing hydrants as well as valve exercising.
  • A hydraulic auger attachment for a skid steer.

The total cost of all the equipment is around $20,000, of which the grants have paid about $10,000. Without the grant, we still would have purchased the air monitor because it is required. But we probably wouldn’t have been able to buy any of the other equipment.

Improved efficiency and safety
Most of the equipment is used on a daily or weekly basis and has improved our daily work routine. Receiving the equipment has greatly increased efficiency and safety throughout all departments.

Read the May-June issue of Minnesota Cities magazine

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