ATAC Solutions’ staff took a journey to the depths to experience working in a sewer environment. It was part of a Confined Space Training course held at the wastewater specialists’ premises in West Farleigh, near Maidstone. A two-tiered mobile unit, which featured a configurable tunnel labyrinth, was hired to replicate oxygen-deficient, belowground conditions.
Reis Gilham, Sales Executive at ATAC, one of eight staff members to take part in the exercise, said: “The idea of taking part in a confined space training exercise was slightly daunting initially. I really didn’t know what to expect, but found the whole experience totally fascinating.”
It’s estimated at least 15 people are killed in the UK each year whilst working in confined spaces. Many deadly gasses lurk underground which make sewer cleaning and maintenance a particularly hazardous occupation. Exposure to sewage or its products can also result in a number of illnesses including hepatitis, gastroenteritis, diarrhoea and vomiting.
During ATAC’s confined space training exercise, which was run by ESS Salesforce, staff were shown how to wear a gas mask correctly due to the deadly fumes present in sewers. They also learnt to read volumes of noxious activity via a gas monitor.
For their belowground training, teams entered the mobile unit in pairs. The facility consisted of 44 metres of configurable tunnel labyrinth, three access points allowing horizontal and vertical entry and exit, as well as LED and emergency lighting. Staff were required to search for certain lights and via radio, relay gas readings to an ‘outside’ team. As part of the exercise, an alarm sounded to indicate teams had entered a ‘vulnerable situation’, requiring staff to wear gas marks and make an emergency exit.
Reis Gilham, who joined ATAC in 2016, added: “It was only an exercise, but a siren’s sound in an enclosed environment without lights can still unnerve. I’m pleased to say we escaped, and the whole training exercise proved an enjoyable learning experience.”
Formed in 2007, ATAC is one of the leading environmental engineering companies in the UK contracting to both domestic, and blue-chip companies throughout the UK. The company has maintained a zero on-site incident record during its 10-year operation.
Adam Colley, ATAC’s Commercial Director, said: “We have a perfect staff safety record, which initiatives such as confined space training will help uphold. Staff health and safety is our number one priority. We thank all those who took part in the exercise for taking it extremely seriously and acknowledging the dangers present in belowground working, particularly within sewers.”