An eye from up high

An eye from up high

Working at height, says the health and safety Executive – an independent regulator in Great Britain – remains one of the biggest causes of fatalities and major injuries. But there are various ways to protect your workforce, such as partnering with specialists or going hi-tech.

Holding the title of “tallest skyscraper in Africa” from 1973 to 2019, the Carlton Centre (a 223-m-high, 50-storey skyscraper and shopping centre in downtown Johannesburg) presents a unique set of challenges. (The title has since been relinquished to The Leonardo, in Sandton, which reaches 234 m.)

Towards the end of last year, South African Load Testing Services (SALTS) was tasked to carry out load testing on four winches in the Carlton Centre’s food court area. However, the inaccessibility of the winches posed a major challenge, and subsequently the company partnered with rope-access specialist Skyriders to provide its expertise.

“Our main scope of work was essentially to access the winches in their hard-to-reach locations by means of rope access and then to connect the system required for SALTS to perform the load testing,” explains Skyriders marketing manager Mike Zinn. In addition, the two-person team also carried out a visual inspection of the structure, winch housings and auxiliary equipment.

“This was a great example of a company that has to perform scopes of work in a wide variety of areas. From a business perspective, it does not make sense to have their own fully trained rope access technicians waiting to be deployed to sites where access is difficult,” says Zinn.

Instead, Skyriders has both the necessary expertise and personnel to partner with such service providers to carry out inspection projects safely and effectively. “The key selling point here, for rope access, is its efficiency, as opposed to taking unnecessary time to construct scaffolding in order to gain access,” he says.

Another critical factor was that the Skyriders’ team was able to go in after-hours to complete the work. “This was a highly successful synergy, and we certainly hope to work with SALTS again in the near future,” he adds.

New ways to work at height
SALTS wasn’t the only company that Skyriders assisted: its Elios SkyEye remote-access drone technology was used to conduct back pass ducting inspection at a chemical recovery furnace at the Sappi Ngodwana pulp-and-paper mill in Mpumalanga. This is a fully integrated kraft mill producing pulp for newsprint and containerboard, as well as for in-house use, with a 210 000 t/year capacity.

Another company had been asked to carry out the inspection work last November, but was unable to assist, at which point Skyriders was approached. “We jumped at the opportunity,” comments Zinn.

Two drone pilots and an inspection manager were dispatched to the site, carrying out the necessary inspection and compiling a detailed report for the client in practically no time at all.

“It was quite challenging from a flying perspective, because in certain areas we were flying completely blind without having eyes on the drone. But Elios, being a confined-space drone, meant it was able to traverse the full length of the duct without any obstruction or delay,” he explains.

This is not the first time that Skyriders has carried out work for Sappi. It has provided a similar inspection service in the past, based on rope access instead. In addition, it has been involved with waterproofing and the installation of an access platform inside a concrete smokestack.

Apart from the reduced time it takes and increased safety of the personnel involved, the benefit of drone technology is that inspection teams can be kept to a minimum size, which is ideal for complying with all necessary Covid-19 regulations.

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SHEQ Management

SHEQ MANAGEMENT is the definitive source for reliable, accurate and pertinent information to guarantee environmental health and safety in the workplace.
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