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…

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CSG: Going With The Flow

Posted on www.csg.co.uk/blog on April 27th 2017

http://www.csg.co.uk/blog/going-with-the-flow/

Brett Ashton is a difficult man to pin down. I called his mobile one morning to discuss this article, only to be met with the reply “Sorry, I’ll have to do this another time – I’m in a nuclear power station”.  As conversation-stoppers go, it’s a pretty good one so we rescheduled at a later date.

Of course the reason Brett can be so elusive is that he’s simply just so busy. As Engineering Supervisor for CSG, he brings an extensive knowledge of pumps and pumping – an ideal specialism as moving liquids is a mainstay of our services. He alternates his time, seemingly daily, between our Head Office in Fareham and any of a number of sites that he oversees.

Service and Maintenance team based at our Head Office in Fareham. Brett Ashton far left.

“I’m really a troubleshooter”, he explains to me, when we find a more appropriate time to speak.  “I carry out the surveys, examine the data, provide the quotes and source the parts.  I do still get my hands dirty but I’m really here to pass on my knowledge when it’s required.”

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Naval life is a great preparation for a career in engineering.  Image: Paul Bentham

Aged 32, he started his career in the Royal Navy, not uncommonly for a son of Portsmouth, and served for two years as an Engineer, mostly aboard HMS Manchester.  Thereafter, he worked in London, maintaining pumps for a variety of clients: “hotels, department stores, fast-food restaurants; mostly heating systems but all pretty similar pumping requirements”.

For the last four years, he’s applied his specialist knowledge here at CSG. He patiently explains the rudiments of pumping: “you’re either looking to get the right level of flow (in litres per minute) or the right distance, which is represented as a curve on a graph.  The complicated bit is when you need to move the curve with the current you have”.

Slowly, it dawns that ‘current’ and ‘flow’ are not interchangeable terms.  ‘Flow’ refers to the liquid motion but the ‘current’ is of the electrical variety, the means of powering the whole operation. Brett casually confirms the realisation “I’m actually a trained plumber and a qualified electrician, which is funny really because usually, they don’t get on!”

Confident and yet self-effacing, he certainly doesn’t give the impression of a person given to internal struggle but his point is well observed – anyone who’s worked on a building site will know the two trades can be capable of mixing about as harmoniously as… well, electricity and water.

It’s certainly not a job for people who don’t like exams.  Brett has had to undertake confined space training, is a qualified slinger and banksman and is UKPIA-accrediated to work on a forecourt.  He’s recently added to this roster by taking a Level 2 & 3 City & Guilds qualification to bolster his electrician’s credentials.  “It involved two years of travelling to London for weekends and a lot of A-level maths!”

Perhaps the most enviable aspect of Brett’s work is the wide variety of places it takes him to.  Aside from his regular presence at that nuclear power station he’s responsible for operations at schools, Forestry Commission sites, RAF barracks and even TV and Film Studios. As it’s a working studios, you have to check your mobile phone in at the front desk because there’s a strict ‘no photography’ policy – so there’s no chance of a selfie with any of the film stars you might come across!”

Occasional brushes with celebrity are nice enough but they pale in comparison to ensuring a job is well done.  Brett explains how smarter technology is helping him to do exactly that.  “Many of our pump stations now have a smart element to them.  This means that not only do they monitor the levels and spot a fault, they can diagnose the problem and email the client and the team here at CSG.  Now, we often don’t need to send out an engineer to look at what’s going on, which is more efficient all round and saves the client money.”

Unsurprisingly, for someone so busy, Brett remains just as active outside of work.  A black belt at karate at the age of 13, he also boxed for the Navy at Lightweight (60Kg). Running and weight-training burn off whatever excess energy remains at the end of the day.

Perhaps the most surprising part of our discussion comes when he declares he’s a big fan of rugby league, in particular the Leeds Rhinos.  Portsmouth is a long way from the sport’s M62-corridor heartland and over 250 miles from Leeds so why the affiliation?  “My Dad used to play for Leeds – when they were just called Leeds – so that’s the main reason but I’d still far rather watch a game of rugby league over union and I try to get up to Headingley to watch a game, when I can.”

What does the future hold for this rugby-league-supporting ex-serviceman of many talents?  “I’ve always preferred to see money as a means to travel rather than just owning stuff and I would like to see more of the world but with a young daughter at the moment, we can’t be too ambitious”.  It’s clear that, sooner or later, this elusive engineer is hoping to be even harder to pin down – for a few weeks of the year, at least!