Edge Underground on site at a railbore in Queensland.

Safety should be the number one priority across all microtunnelling job sites, but how can you be sure that your contractor is taking safety measures seriously across the board? To what extent can you trust their equipment safety measures, and how can you ensure that personnel consistently choose safety first?

From advanced equipment technologies to their overall business model, Edge Underground goes above and beyond to ensure that safety requirements are kept at a high level without fail.

A focus on equipment

According to Stuart Harrison, Managing Director at Edge Underground, safety for the team begins at the equipment level.

“To begin with, our AXIS guided boring system has a superior level of operator safety when compared with all other microtunnelling equipment in the market.

“The operator has full protection from their surrounding environment as they sit within a Falling Object Protective System (FOPS) safety enclosure for the duration of the drill. There is no need for them to be exposed to the outside environment and they are protected from above if anything should happen to fall into the pit.”

As the AXIS systems are owned by Vermeer, these safety enclosures have been vigorously tested to produce a product that can withstand great impacts without showing any sign of damage to the screen.

“Vermeer is self-­insured, so their commitment to safety is paramount. Because of this, the operator of an AXIS machine is protected from the impact of drilling rods falling from as high as 10 metres without any damage being made,” said Mr Harrison.

“This is definitely an impressive safety feature and surprisingly, the AXIS system is the only microtunnelling machine on the market that has a safety enclosure at all.”

In terms of the mechanics within the machine, there are also unique safety mechanisms to help personnel while completing the drill.

“The AXIS system is equipped with pressure gauges including a vacuum gauge at the rear of the machine. These feed information to the operator of the machine, notifying them of changes in ground pressure.”

According to Mr Harrison, a pilot shot is always completed before the installation takes place. This is particular to the way Edge operates and allows the team to choose the correct cutter for the ground conditions on site.

This pilot line then enables Edge to assess the ground conditions, so when it comes time to begin drilling, any discrepancies in pressure found by the AXIS pressure gauges allow the team to avoid any problems.

“A change in ground pressure could signify contact with a trench, which could possibly be housing live wires. According to Mr Harrison, there have been instances where power cables haven’t been located by Dial Before You Dig services or pre-­project geotechnical surveys.

“If an AXIS drill comes into contact with a power cable, an in­-built strike alert mechanism will sound, notifying the operator that the machine has become live. The operator can remain safely within the machine until the power source has been deactivated.

“Most situations like this however, can be avoided due to the pressure gauges notifying the drill operator that there is something up ahead. This is advanced safety technology and one of the real benefits of using the AXIS machine.”

Making waves in the industry

According to Mr Harrison, the strike alert mechanism and pressure gauge system have been highly regarded by workmen and site managers, and have gained interest from major utilities as a fantastic way to reduce risk on job sites.

“Utilities have been very impressed with our commitment to safety, delivered through our unique safety mechanisms on our equipment. Our capabilities with the AXIS system have opened up a wider discussion about asset location practices, placing us in good stead in terms of innovation and commitment to safety.

Monitoring target grade via the operator console.

Monitoring target grade via the operator console.

Personal safety

The entire business model at Edge is another way in which the company is able to consistently carry out projects with a high degree of safety.

“As everyone at Edge has the ability to work as their own boss, they are dedicated to providing the very best service. Safety is therefore a top consideration for all personnel, as each contractor strives to do the best job possible to encourage more work opportunities to follow through.

“This is a very powerful force and results in everyone being 100 per cent motivated, improving reliability and attention to detail.”

The reality

The reality of job site safety is that there is a lot of old equipment still being used by contractors throughout the country. The newer the equipment, the more safety features included, so it is important to choose a contractor with up­-to­-date machinery.

According to Mr Harrison, especially due to WorkSafe Australia, there has been a growth of awareness in overall safety within the drilling industry.

“From my experience having seen and worked on many job sites internationally, Australia leads the way in site safety and awareness.

“However, it is important then, that all contractors across the country step up to the standard by updating their equipment and safety procedures.

“Without a doubt I can say that the AXIS guided boring system is the safest drill on the market. Winner of the No­Dig 2009 Innovative New Product of the Year Award, there has never been a workplace incident as a result of using this machine.”

For more information, contact Stuart Harrison on 1300 JACKED. 

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