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Public Works Week - City of Hutchinson Event

July 9, 2019

Public Works Week - City of Hutchinson Event

Article submitted by John Olson, APWA-MN Chapter Director-Outstate and Public Works Manager for the City of Hutchinson

Over the last couple of years, Hutchinson Public Works has built a relationship with the Hutchinson School District’s STREAM (Science, Technology, Renewables/Robotics, Engineering, Arts/Agriculture and Math) program. Public Works staff have participated in career fairs and other events sponsored by the program.

Public Works has deliberately decided to be involved in the STREAM program to make students aware of careers in public works as well as career opportunities with the contractors, vendors, consultants and suppliers that public works professionals interact with on a regular basis. Of course, it does not hurt that the STREAM program coordinator is the spouse of our Senior Wastewater Maintenance Operator!

On May 22, as part of our Public Works Week celebration, about 20 STREAM students toured three public works facilities as part of their safety curriculum.  

First, students visited the Hutchinson Area Transportation Services (HATS) Facility, a shop housing state, county and city operations. Students learned about general safety topics including building a culture of safety, investigating incidents, reporting, personal protective equipment, hazard identification, AWAIR and Right-to-Know, fire prevention and first aid. Roadway safety was the highlight including designing for safety, planning and executing work zone safety, and working around heavy equipment.

Students then went to the city’s wastewater treatment facility, where they learned about the overall process of wastewater treatment including the theory behind how it works, on both a small and large scale. Students were able to see the supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system in action and visited the lab for a peek at microorganisms in the microscope and a visual demonstration of the activated sludge treatment process. Students were impressed that the water discharged into the river is cleaner than the river water itself. Students saw what happens when “flushables” cause severe damage to pumps and valves. Students saw an electrical control panel and were able to inspect its components. The safety emphasis was on confined space entry and lockout/tagout procedures.  

To finish the trip, students went to the water treatment plant. There they learned the process that water goes through from the well, through the biofilters and reverse osmosis system, out into the distribution system, and finally into homes and buildings. The safety focus at the water plant was on fall protection including a demonstration of fitting personal protective equipment for climbing and a climbing demonstration on a cable-type fall protection system.

We met our twofold goal of satisfying the needs of the program’s safety curriculum while exposing students to careers in public works and those that support public works functions. In an after-action meeting, we learned the students felt like they learned a lot and certainly appreciated the hands-on demonstrations at the various sites. If you and your organization would like to do something similar, I recommend giving students as much hands-on time as you can muster.

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