A Wrench Fends Off Injury, Feeds the Economy

Nearly 30 percent of worker injuries in the gas utility industry come from changing meters. Many of these are so severe they require surgical treatment.

But now, Kenosha-based toolmaker Snap-on Inc. has introduced a new product created by engineers at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee – an industrial wrench designed to reduce shoulder, hand and back injuries.

Snap-on officials introduced the new tool at a public ceremony June 10.

Professor Naira Campbell-Kyureghyan, Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering

Professor Naira Campbell-Kyureghyan, Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering

“The future of work in critical industries like public utilities depends upon innovation that brings more safety and greater productivity to the worksite,” said Andy Ginger, president of Snap-on Industrial. “Snap-on is exceptionally proud to introduce this completely new gas meter service solution in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.”

UWM faculty members Naira Campbell-Kyureghyan and Benjamin Church, and alumnus Patrick Dix made and tested the wrench with the input from UWM’s Consortium for Advanced Research in Gas Industries (CARGI), an organization of member companies in the gas industry. CARGI, formed by Campbell-Kyureghyan in 2010, is dedicated to improving safety and productivity for its private-sector and utility members.

Gas meter technicians currently use adjustable pipe wrenches, which can slip when significant force is applied, causing injuries that often require surgery. The new tool has a longer handle, designed to work with several interchangeable heads, so that technicians don’t have to carry the added weight of multiple specialty wrenches in their tool bags.

“Based on our investigations and input from our gas industry partners, we determined that something must be done to prevent these devastating and costly injuries,” said Campbell-Kyureghyan. “Our innovations and research-based training continues to make an impact on many people, including the most important impact of all – saving lives.”

Snap-on entered a license agreement with the UWM Research Foundation in October 2013 to commercialize the gas-meter wrench.

“Public-private research partnerships such as this are not only vitally important to our regional and state economies – they are transformational,” said Mark A. Mone, UWM chancellor. “Together, Snap-on Inc. and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee are positively impacting thousands of lives.”

“This collaboration represents a triple-win. A local business has a new product to bring to market. Utility workers have a tool that prevents on-the-job injuries. Students are engaged in research with real-world application, making them industry-ready,” said Brett Peters, dean of UWM’s College of Engineering & Applied Science. “These are the ways we seek to change the world by starting in our own community.”

Campbell-Kyureghyan’s lab will donate its proceeds from tool sales to CARGI scholarships at UWM to support student work and internships.