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Safer worker confined space entry on the way in Sundre

Hitch mount system an enhanced safety measure for town staff to access tight spots on tasks previously done largely by contractors
The Town of Sundre council approved the purchase of confined space entry equipment, which essentially amounts to a pulley system that can be mounted on a hitch for mobility. Image courtesy Town of Sundre

SUNDRE – The municipality’s acquisition of a new piece of safety equipment used to lower workers into confined vertical spaces will reportedly enable the town’s water and wastewater department to conduct more work in-house.

During an administrative preamble presented on April 29 during a regular meeting, council heard from the director of corporate services that the town’s water and wastewater crew recently has been “doing a lot more confined entry, a lot more small spaces.”  

Calling the safety-related issue “a fairly significant item,” Chris Albert said the hitch mount system is a piece of equipment that will be attached to one of the town’s trailers.

“So it will be of course mobile; it’s not just for one specific location,” said Albert.

“Our new projects manager actually identified that we should have some better equipment for the safety of our staff who are going into some these places,” he said.

Essentially a pulley system, the hitch mount is a “winch that connects to a safety vest and a belt and harness,” he explained.

“It does just ensure that if something should happen, we can actually get our staff member out of the situation as quickly as possible,” he said, adding the estimated cost of the equipment was almost $18,000.

According to information outlined in council’s agenda package for the meeting, the equipment will further help to ensure the safety of the department’s staff when entering confined or potential hazardous spaces at the lagoon berm. It can also be used for entering manholes or inspecting and cleaning around the lagoon cells.

The cost of nearly $18,000 plus GST includes an arm, a mast, a worker rescuer bracket, winch, hitch mount, three base floors as well as three harnesses.

Coun. Owen Petersen moved the recommended motion for council to approve the purchase as presented.

Petersen asked if there would perhaps also be any additional costs involved relating to any training that might be required.

Linda Nelson, chief administrative officer, said the town’s public works staff regularly train to stay up to speed on latest practices and new equipment.

Petersen expressed support for having higher-quality equipment that enhances the safety of staff on the job.

“It’s a no brainer,” he said.

Coun. Chris Vardas wanted to know what had been the town staff’s previous approach.  

“How were we lowering our staff down into these confined spaces prior to having this safety tool?” asked Vardas.

“A lot of that work was done through, depending on the project, we have contractors,” answered Nelson.

“We are now doing a lot of this work ourselves. So, we’re requiring this equipment so that we can continue doing work ourselves,” she added.

Vardas spoke in favour of purchasing the equipment not only to improve safety for town staff but also as a cost-cutting measure of doing as much work as possible in-house, thereby reducing the need to outsource jobs to private contractors at a greater expense.

Council carried the motion.

Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel joined Mountain View Publishing in 2015 after working for the Vulcan Advocate since 2007, and graduated among the top of his class from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's journalism program in 2006.
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