Every year, in preparation for winter weather, Lawrence County maintenance crews used to use a fork lift to attach salt spreading devices onto the back of trucks while someone crawled underneath to finish making the connections.
With just one fork lift for all of Lawrence County, it was long and slow process.
And, to John Olszewski, known in the district as "Johnny O,'' the county's Highway Equipment Manager, it just didn't seem very safe.
About two years ago, Olszewski came up with a better idea – one that would be safer for employees and speed up the process, making it easier for everyone.
His idea had specific requirements.
"I wanted to have some way of having one or two workers mounting the spreader while the fork lift was going to get the next spreader," Olszewski said. "I wanted it on wheels, so it was easy to move around, and it had to be adjustable, each side independent of the other side."
Olszewski also wanted it to be used by the garage staff when working on the spreaders. "It had to be an open concept so one would be able to fix hydraulic lines or motors and replace augers and bearings,'' he said.
Having grown up working around machinery in the family business, Olszewski said he knew exactly what he wanted and talked to the shop's welder about building the specialized cart.
With Olszewski's creation, the spreader is placed on the 8-by-2-foot cart and rolled up to the truck. But, before it's lined up, the hydraulic line is connected.
"This way you are able to see better, and you are not under the forks of the fork lift that is usually holding the spreader," Olszewski said.
Once the lines are attached, the spreader can be lined up to the truck and dropped into place. After the support brackets are connected on either side, the cart is lowered and removed.
To remove the spreader, the process is simply reversed.
"If the spreader has to come off for some reason during the winter it can be done easy and safely," Olszewski said. "In previous years, the operator would have to bring the truck to the main yard to remove the spreader causing a delay."
Now, he added, every stockpile in the county has a cart.
"When I first came up with the idea, I did let the district equipment manager and my county manager know. They liked the idea and the fact that it would be safer than using a fork lift," Olszewski said. "Now, we have one for every stockpile in the county."
District 11 shared this smart practice through PennDOT WorkSmart, an online system, accessible 24/7, that provides all PennDOT employees with a forum to share their smart practices, or things they are already doing as part of their normal work day, with their fellow PennDOT employees.