Weekly Pic | 2nd Jan | That Time I Saw The Future 

5 years ago | The Great Barrier Reef, off Queensland, AU | 4th January 2018

Five years ago, we snorkelled in the Great Barrier Reef.  Let’s just let that just sink in for a moment…

Even as I typed those words, part of me can’t quite believe I’m able to.   It’s a preposterous thing to be able to say.  I grew up in a pretty normal 80s household, watching ‘Russ Abbot’s Madhouse’ and having sliced bananas in milk for ‘afters’ at teatime.  Ten year-old me would think it an impossible thing for grown-up me to have even contemplated doing.

The Barrier Reef was the sort of thing we’d see on a David Attenborough programme.  Of course we knew this was somewhere on the same planet because, well, it couldn’t not be.  But it wasn’t realistically in our orbit.  It existed solely “on telly”, in the same way that JR Ewing or Hilda Ogden did – and it might as well have been equally as fictional.

And so, when the opportunity came to see it ‘in real life’, it had to be taken.  We were on the third leg of our Australian tour.  We’d spent Christmas in Melbourne and New Year in Sydney, with a still-hungover flight up to Cairns on New Year’s Day morning.  An hour’s drive north is place called Port Douglas and it was recommended to me by an old business contact from Geelong as the best place to do the ‘Reef.

He wasn’t wrong.  It’s a small town by a big beach, surrounded by resort hotels and a tropical rain forest, but with a charming main drag of pubs and restaurants.  There’s a look-out point from which to admire the view and a harbour from which to book your Reef adventure.

The parts we’d snorkel in were about twenty miles out to sea and as we skipped over the waves in our 40-foot craft, we were treated to just about the best – and certainly the most Australian – ‘safety announcement’ I think I’ve ever heard:

“If the boat gets into difficulties, we’ll ask you all to put on your lifejackets as we drift aimlessly around.  I’ll send our location on the radio and set off a flare – and then we’ll get the tinnies in while we wait for the Channel Nine news-copter to come and find us”

Anyway, before long we got to our intended location, slipped on the jellyfish-proof ’stinger’ wetsuits and jumped in the ocean.  Reader, I won’t lie, it was every bit the awesome, pinch-me, unbelievable experience that I’d expected it to be.  

The bit that was different to billing was the noticeable lack of vibrant colour that, thanks to the aforementioned Mr. Attenborough, I’d been led to expect.  There was some colour and plenty of exotic species but it wasn’t the rainbow-infused dazzle of colour I’d seen on TV at home.  The fact it was more drab, more monochrome, more – dare I say it? – bleached meant the experience was just as profound as I’d wanted, just not in the way I’d thought it would be.

You see, there’s something else that we know exists because how can it not?  Something that we tend to see evidence of primarily “on telly”, where fact and fiction are less clearly delineated and, much of the time, the endings are already written.  Climate change is that real-life storyline and it occurred to me that this was the first physical evidence I’d seen of it with my own eyes.  

I know none of this should matter.  We can all believe the science, we can all know the issues and we can all understand the choices that climate change forces us to face.  It’s simply a question of logic.  The problem is that human beings are, to a large extent, not logical.  That profound sense of witnessing something I’d only previously experienced second-hand has stayed with me ever since.  

What I saw was the future we’ve been warned about “on telly” – in real life. Maybe if everyone had the opportunity to do what I’ve done, the issue would be more in our orbit and we’d be closer to solving this most real-life of problems.

CSG: Thinking Outside the Tank

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on November 7th 2017

https://www.csg.co.uk/blog/thinking-outside-the-tank

Kevin Mooney is not a man given to taking ‘no’ for an answer. As CSG’s Health & Safety Manager, it’s a necessary virtue to have – it’s an area where tenacity can be repaid by life and livelihood itself and where meekly avoiding the occasional resistance can invite real danger.

One of his recent projects is a perfect example of that will to demand constant improvement, even where standard practice seemed to have decided progress had gone far enough. In the summer, Kevin unveiled his self-designed Manhole Safety Barrier. It works by temporarily removing the ability of a Manhole to fit a human through its aperture (something a manhole is, by definition, designed to do) at times when the cover needs to be removed but when human access is not required, such as emptying or jetting the tank below.

As CSG carry out over 55,000 tank clearances a year, the issue is clearly one to merit such consideration. While CSG have never documented a case of an operator falling down a manhole, it was still deemed an important issue to address – using the core Health and Safety principle that prevention is always better than ‘cure’.

The device consists of a straight bar with two hinged arms, forming a cross, which can be securely fixed into the four corners of a manhole. Effectively, the ‘X’ shape turns a manhole into four ‘hose-holes’, ideal for getting the job done without leaving a hole large enough for a human to fall through.

It’s no surprise that Kevin has brought a hands-on approach to his work. When he joined CSG, earlier this year, he revealed that he’s a keen restorer of classic cars, spending many an hour on his beloved MG BGT. That practical approach, combined with a professional understanding of what’s necessary to minimise risk, has led to the invention and subsequent development of this handy implement.

“I enjoy tinkering with things so it was quite satisfying to be able to use that approach to a work-based project” he enthuses. “As well as being able to secure the manhole, I knew the device also needed to be light and compact enough to be conveniently stowed on the lorry and easily carried by the driver.”

Having made and tested a prototype, Kevin then worked closely with a manufacturer to ensure every element of his design was adhered to during the production process. The first batch of 50 has now been made, with another 100 to follow before each CSG tanker is thus equipped. Interestingly, a number of other companies whose activities involve working around manholes have also shown an interest in the barrier, suggesting the development of such a product was perhaps overdue.

Kevin remains unabashed about his self-engineered solution: “I identified a risk and found a solution to the problem, which, in a nutshell, is what I’m here for. We looked at things in the market but nothing suited so the only difference was that I had to adopt an engineer’s view in order to find it.”

With the success of this project and, given Kevin’s practical capability, is it possible he’ll bring these skills to bear again?

“I would imagine so. If the need exists, I’d be happy to build something that reduces the risks we ask our staff to work under.”

‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, as the saying goes. It would be difficult to find a better real-world example than the MSB – the Manhole (or is it the ‘Mooney’?) Safety Barrier…