Rope-access provider Skyriders, in conjunction with dedicated working-at-height training provider Height Wise Training Academy, started offering accredited confined-space training in July.
The training aims to prevent accidents and negligence in confined-space operations and includes a newly launched specialist confined-space service that comprises confined-space rescue, standby, training and consulting expertise.
“A confined space refers to an enclosed, restricted or limited space that includes any equipment, machinery or object in which dangerous liquids or a concentration of gas, vapour, dust or fumes may be present,” explains Skyriders confined-space specialist Rudolf Lubbe.
He notes that confined-space expertise is important in various industries, including, but not limited to, construction, oil and gas, and power generation, as well as municipalities.
“Several workers a year are injured as a result of exposure to various dangers in confined spaces. One of the biggest problems is inadequate training and inexperience to effectively deal with problems,” says Lubbe.
It is not only about the number of people who have received training, but also about how many have the expertise to work in such an environment, and the compulsory support services of a trained confined-space rescue team, he adds.
Lubbe points out that there is a large demand for these services in a diverse range of industry sectors in South Africa and abroad.
He adds that the Occupational Health and Safety Act includes specific regulations for confined spaces and that companies must include a site-specific confined-space code of conduct in their safety plans.
“I am confident that Skyriders will provide excellent services, as our teams of technicians are highly qualified, trained and boast many years of relevant experience,” says Lubbe.
Sappi Ngodwana Mill
Skyriders marketing manager Mike Zinn notes that the company has carried out in-house inspections and minor repairs for pulp and paper company Sappi’s Ngodwana mill, in Nelspruit.
The work was done over five days in March for ducting from the chemical recovery boiler, through the precipitators to the smoke stack.
The mill is a fully integrated kraft mill that produces pulp for newsprint and containerboard.
Sappi has been relying on rope-access-aided repair and inspection services from Skyriders since 2006, highlights Zinn.
“To complete the ducting, a team of five rope-access technicians used ultrasonic wall-thickness measuring instrumentation to conduct a comprehensive inspection from the boiler to precipitator, and from the precipitator to the smoke stack,” he explains.
Zinn adds that some minor welding was completed to repair damaged areas.
He notes that the tight deadlines of the project posed a challenge, as the plant had to be shut down for routine maintenance.
Further, Zinn says the project was demanding as the ability to measure welding and wall thickness using ultrasonic equipment while suspended at height requires experience.
The mill boasts a production capacity of 210 000 t/y of dissolving wood pulp, 200 000 t/y of unbleached chemical pulp and 110 000 t/y of mechanical pulp. Its paper capacity includes 230 000 t/y of kraft linerboard and 140 000 t/y of newsprint material. Owing to this large-scale capacity, Zinn notes that prolonged downtime leads to major operational losses.
“Rope-access-aided inspection and repair have provided Ngodwana with significant savings in terms of cost and time, as scaffolding can be costly and time consuming, and the cost can be disproportionate to the work that needs to be carried out,” he adds.
Given the successful working relationship between Sappi and Skyriders to date, Zinn is optimistic about the potential for future growth.
“Our main aim with regard to Ngodwana is to secure more regular inspection and repair work on the ducting, boilers and smoke stacks, while offering confined-space solutions to ensure a more comprehensive service,” he concludes.