Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) employee, Merlin Harrington, was recently honored at a banquet held at the capital building in Austin. Harrington was among employees from various state agencies who were recognized by the Texas Incentive and Productivity Commission (TIPC) for their contributions and ideas that increase efficiency, productivity and safety in the workplace. Harrington came up with his idea last winter when the roadway de-icer, called Melt-Down 20 (M-D 20), kept getting stuck in the spreader box. M-D 20 comes in pellet form and is distributed from spreader boxes mounted on the tailgate of a pick-up. The product, by design, absorbs moisture. Once the pellets are poured into the box for distribution, they begin to absorb moisture from the air. The material “bridges” across the box and will not continue to slide down the chute and onto the highway, as it should. McCulloch County Maintenance Supervisor, Kyle Moseley, sees Harrington’s invention as a much-needed time and manpower saver as well as a safety device. “Before we had this device, we had to have a two-man crew to spread the de-icer. One to drive the truck and one to keep the Melt-Down 20 pushed to the bottom of the spreader box for even distribution. Because of Merlin’s invention, we are able to do a more efficient job with only one employee.” Harrington’s device is a 3/8 inch flat steel plate that is driven by a 12-volt blower motor mounted on the back of the tailgate spreader. When the motor is on, the steel plate oscillates causing a vibration on the wall of the spreader box. The constant vibration keeps the de-icing pellets moving down in the dispensing chute and onto the icy roadway. The blower motor is wired into the cab of the truck, allowing the driver to switch the motor on when needed. By using the device, the efficiency of the maintenance crews has increased but so has employee safety. By not having to leave the cab of the pick-up to work on the spreader-box, the employee is not exposed to traffic on icy roads or to the elements of the winter weather. Brownwood District Director of Maintenance, Howard Holland, is pleased with the new equipment. “This is an great solution to the problems we’ve had using this product,” Holland said. “It is an excellent product when it can be applied without problems in the spreaders. Bridging in the spreader box has been such a problem that the maintenance supervisors have questioned usage of M-D 20. The methods we have used in the past such as tapping the side of the spreader or stirring with a rod are slow and dangerous for employees.” Holland added that other counties in the Brownwood district have used Harrington’s model to build the same device for their equipment. Merlin Harrington began his career with TxDOT in the McCullouch County maintenance office in 1992.