Waterline – Spring 2018 – Evaporative Cooling Towers & Condensers and Working at Height

Published on 05/23/2018 | by Phil Ricardo
As featured in waterline Spring 2018

Evaporative Cooling Towers & Condensers and Working at Height

Colin Brown,
Carter Environmental Engineers

Many years ago little thought was given to the implications of working at height whilst carrying out inspections and maintenance procedures on evaporative cooling equipment. There are many accounts which may cause shudders of disbelief with what was expected by unit owners when inviting prospective suppliers and service providers to inspect their cooling equipment on site.

I can recall one such visit where my host asked if he and I could carry two ladders, the first of which gained us access to a first level roof which was then lifted up to avoid it being stolen where the second ladder was to gain access to the top of the tower. Neither ladder was quite long enough so improvised leaping was called for!

working at height image example

Thankfully memories like this are now just memories as very few sites and duty holders behave so irresponsibly when it comes to providing suitable duty of care to employees and visitors to their site when tasked with carrying out inspections and work on their evaporative cooling equipment.

In a recent round of intervention visits carried out by the HSE many of the improvement notices served were for lack of adequate safe access facilities for the inspection of evaporative equipment components such as drift eliminators which incidentally are recommended to be checked weekly or as often as deemed necessary to comply with the overall system risk assessment.

Most new installations do have provision for fixed and safe access with hooped access ladders, hand railing and platforms forming part of a standard supply provision. On a slightly different approach, the industry does seem to be moving away in some cases from vertical access ladders to staircases which can add considerable cost and space taken up to accommodate, but is deemed to be a safer approach to providing safer adequate access.

The City of London Environmental Health Office have recently issued a considered strategy document where it cites “during the legionella intervention programme (April 2013 to August 2014) nearly 80% of improvement notices were with regard to working at height matters”. This is a stance supported by other London authorities which should be enhanced by way of recommendations from manufacturers, suppliers, M&E contractors as well as consulting engineers”. Clearly they have experiences from their inspections where many sites have been found wanting on this issue.

working at height image example

Overall the duty holders, consulting engineers, M&E contractors, manufacturers and suppliers and indeed the wider public will benefit from such “designed in” access considerations made at the outset and will come to recognise their importance throughout the working life of the equipment they serve.

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