Steamboat Springs Routt County employees used their ingenuity to make the best of a bad situation last year.
That ingenuity was recently honored by the state of the Colorado and recognized among three other states.
When the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administration cited the county's gravel crushing operation last fall for noise violation, the County Road and Bridge Department sought a solution.
The result caught the eye of a state program that acknowledges counties for innovative ideas that save money and foster efficiency.
The Colorado Local Technical Assistance Program sponsors an annual "You Show Us" contest that highlights safety and operational improvements as well as other enhancements at the county level.
The contest welcomes entries from all county governments in Colorado. Routt County was named the winner of the statewide contest and competed with entries from counties in three neighboring states.
North Dakota, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming have all submitted statewide winners in the past.
MSHA standards allow the operator of a primary crusher to run the equipment only one hour for every eight-hour shift.
But during that time, the operator is exposed to deafening noise levels, choking dust and flying rock chips.
It creates a hazardous work environment, said Bill Rodgers, who works with the county's crushing operation. The operator stands on a shaking platform and looks down into the jaws of the primary crusher for eight hours a day, he said.
The county eliminated the dangerous position and purchased cameras and monitors that now allow the crusher boss to view the action from a safe distance away.
Two cameras installed on the primary crusher look down into the crusher's jaws and view the control speed setting.
A third camera mounted on a nearby van views the rest of the operation.
The elimination of an operator's position and salary should save the county $18,545 in 2003.
Routt County Commissioners Doug Monger and Dan Ellison applauded the Road and Bridge Department for its innovation Monday.
"It's a win-win situation for the county," Monger said. "We're really proud of the outcome."