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An innovation for safer network isolations

Logan Water and its partners Downer and Mass Products have engineered an innovative, yet simple, isolation lock for buried water valves. 

The innovation addresses the previous lack of a suitable device on the Australian market for use in common square B and D class valve boxes. The initiative received AWA’s Water Industry Safety Excellence Award at this year’s Ozwater’22 Gala Dinner and Awards presentation. 

Logan Water Group Manager Mike Basterfield said that the lock enabled physical control of a water network isolation.

The device comprises a steel plate that is placed inside a valve box. The plate is locked in place with an individually keyed lock and a warning tag. The lock makes it clear to workers when water infrastructure is, or is not, isolated. The use of individually keyed locks also makes it easier to identify who is working on the isolation. 

“This economical device provides operators with confidence that hazardous stored energy is controlled while repairs and maintenance are undertaken on a water network,” Basterfield said. 

“A pressurised network stores energy which can be hazardous to workers if it is released accidentally when a work area is not isolated. Globally, workers have drowned or been crushed in trench collapses when water mains burst during maintenance works.

“Apart from the safety aspects, problems with network isolations can also result in lost productivity, increased costs and unplanned water outages which affect customers.” 

The valve lock was inspired by Logan Water’s and Downers’ boots-on-the-ground workers who participated in ‘Learning Team’ sessions to improve our approach to water network isolations.

Basterfield said that facilitated learning teams were a tool used in Logan Water’s Human and Operational Performance (HOP) program.

“Learning Teams helped us to discover how network isolations were actually performed, which we call ‘work-as-done’, and identify what makes isolations successful or difficult,” he said.  

“Based on the outcomes of the sessions, the team discussed various physical network isolation methods. We then developed a valve lock concept and worked with our designers and Mass Products to build prototypes.”

The new valve lock was tested and refined and is now an everyday part of Logan Water's ‘lock out tag out’ process. 

Since implementing the valve lock and a simplified water network isolation process, field crews have greater confidence their work can be undertaken safely and efficiently. There have been no stored energy incidents recorded since implementation. 

The lock has also been used to provide greater security on boundary valves separating differential pressures across water supply (DMA) zones. This offers a heightened level of asset and customer protection.

“Rather than keeping the innovation to ourselves, all water industry organisations can now order the valve lock from Mass Products online. This is another great way to keep our industry safe,” Basterfield said.

For more information, watch the video here.