Last week at the Ozwater Gala Dinner and Awards night, WSAA was pleased to sponsor the 2016 Water Industry Safety Excellence Award. Nominations for the award came from across Australia and the three finalists present on the night at the Ozwater Gala Dinner were: Unitywater, TasWater and Western Water. Taswater was announced as the winner for their 'Vacuum Truck Snorkel.' A vacuum truck what? And how is it safe?

So imagine a normal snorkel – the type you go swimming with on the Great Barrier Reef, and then forget that and imagine something much bigger – check out the picture. Imagine this attachment fitting onto a flexible suction hose. The hose is used to clean out wet wells.  Normally employees would be down in the wet well, a confined space, trying to move around with the hose. Normally it would need to be positioned to suck up contaminated material and maintain a ratio of air to liquid so it worked effectively. Not a job you usually see the excited work experience students lining up for!

The invention by TasWater employees Haydn Charlton, Mathew Loone and Mark Richardson from Launceston means their colleagues don’t need to physically be down the well as the snorkel automatically maintains the ratio of air to liquid.  The less time employees need to spend down in a confined space the less risk. This invention has the potential to be used in other industries as well – not just in urban water. 

This is the second safety award for the team from TasWater and probably not the last as they now look to patent the snorkel and select a Tasmanian service provider to manufacture the units. What a fantastic story of innovation to ensure dedicated field staff remain safe and go home every night to their families.

With safety top of mind for water utilities around Australia, the recognition of employees identifying solutions is important. WSAA’s Health and Safety  Network continues to grow with over 25 representatives from around Australia collaborating on key projects to improve safety for water industry workers. At the WSAA Board meeting we recently started a Safety Share standing agenda item – sharing experiences and learnings from across the utilities.

Congratulations to the TasWater team and all the entrants in the 2016 Water Industry Safety Excellence Award!

17 May 2016

Adam Lovell

Adam Lovell

Executive Director