A water company has been recognised at the Australian Water Association’s Awards for its design of a vacuum truck “snorkel” used for sucking out wastewater from sewers.

TasWater’s snorkel is a rigid attachment which fits on the end of a flexible suction hose to give greater control when cleaning out wet wells and other points at which the sewerage network can be accessed for maintenance and cleaning.

It was designed by TasWater operations and maintenance crew members Haydn Charlton, Mathew Loone and Mark Richardson, all based in Launceston, who have taken out the Water Industry Safety Excellence Award.

They were convinced there was a better way of sucking out wastewater from sewers rather than getting into a confined space and trying to physically manoeuvre a flexible suction hose.

Normally, the hose has to be positioned to not only suck up the contaminated material but also to maintain an optimum mix of air and liquid for the suction action to work effectively.

The snorkel automatically maintains the air to liquid ratio, eliminating the need for crew members to handle the end of the hose.

TasWater’s Department Manager Health and Safety, Peta Forster, said the snorkel removes the risks involved with employee’s getting into a confined space surrounded by contaminated material and the potential of coming into contact with biohazards.

“The invention’s potential is quite extraordinary,” Ms Forster said.

“Not just for the water services industry but any number of other applications and service providers where people are dealing with significantly contaminated or hazardous material that needs to be isolated, collected and disposed of; for example, oil spills.

“It also reduces the risk of on-site injuries and accidents as a result of slips, trips and falls.”.

The snorkel has already won recognition for its health and safety benefits by taking out the Best Workplace Health and Safety Initiative Award at the 2015 Tasmanian WorkSafe awards, and has now been recognised by the water services industry on the national stage.

The workplace-designed snorkel is a device which could drastically reduce operational health and safety risks within the water services industry.

It took less than a year for the invention to go from concept to a reality and has been endorsed by a number of local suction truck contractors, with the snorkel now in operation across a number of TasWater job sites around the state.

TasWater CEO Michael Brewster said, “The development of the snorkel is a demonstration of the skill and insight our workers on the front line apply to the work they do. The team has identified an issue and produced a responsible solution.

“It’s also an example of how TasWater’s business wide philosophy of Zero Harm can influence all areas of our work and assist us to realise our Vision to make a positive difference to Tasmania.” 

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