When scaffolder Shaun Cottone saw a fellow worker engaging in a hazardous but common habit, a bit of quick thinking led to a lightbulb moment which could change the way we rig.
One of the biggest safety risks when rigging for cranes is the simple and quite common act of walking under a suspended load.
The practice is so dangerous that most operations and contracting companies have strict “life-saving” rules in place to prevent the practice, rules that if broken can result in an immediate dismissal. These rules have come to include the concept of “load shadow”: a potential danger zone beneath a suspended load.
Despite these rules, there are still times when a rigger cannot avoid getting under a suspended load in order to complete the job, like when they’re trying to grab onto a tagline, and it was exactly this practice that made scaffolder Shaun Cottone think of a new solution.
A dangerous problem
“I was on the scaffolding crew at Pluto, about 18 months ago, and one day I was watching the rigger who was helping us with the gear, like our scaff tubes, boards, lifting cages, and I noticed that every time he received a load, he went underneath it to grab the tagline.”
Cottone approached the rigger, knowing he couldn’t stand by and watch the repeat of this hazard, over and over… “Mate, you can’t do it like that, it’s dangerous”.
“At first he just told me to f&#k off,” Cottone said.
“But after a while he came back to me and asked ‘Well, how else am I supposed to grab it?’”.
“That’s when the penny dropped for me… I thought, hang on a minute, the gravity, the rope, having it hanging below the load, I realised that the whole system was wrong, but there was a way to change it.”
In a hazardous workplace culture like mining construction and maintenance, where safety is paramount, Cottone suddenly had a lightbulb moment that gave him the inspiration to try to make a difference and change a hazardous industry practice.
Making a change
Cottone knew that the culture of safety openly encouraged ideas for improvement, and realised he’d had an idea about how to solve a problem that was literally as old as rigging itself.
“I went back to my donga that night, and over the next couple of weeks I drew up the design for what I have now, an extension arm that you can tie a tagline to,” he said.
After some research into patents, Cottone went to a local welder who could make up the design.
“He got his 15 year old apprentice knock up a prototype, and it was pretty crude, you could never use it on site, but it gave me something to use for the patent.”
“When I took the drawings to the patent lawyer he asked ‘Have you got one?’.”
“I said, ‘I’ve got one in my car’ and that was that, it was an invention!”
“When I came up with the idea, I remembered a boss who gave us all a big safety lecture once about how we should never be afraid to grab a safety officer, a supervisor, a manager, anyone, and tell them if you’ve got a safer way to do the job, so when I saw that problem I decided to take the next step.”
“I mean, you, me, everyone, we all see problems every day, whether at home, or working, or playing sport, and you think ‘that’s just ridiculous, mate’ and I could have just kept on walking, but this one time I just thought, I’m not going to ignore it, I’m going to do something about this.”
By wanting to make a difference to improve safety and look after his mates on site, Cottone invented the TAG-EX, a tagline extension arm designed for clipping on to the side of a lifting cage, a stillage, and other types of loads to be lifted by crane.
Since then, the TAG-EX has been taken on board by Pilbara Access, who have had the device approved for use on Rio Tinto sites in the Pilbara, and five units have been purchased by Bechtel for trial on Curtis Island.
The key element of this Australian made and owned invention is that it allows a dogman or rigger to get a hold on the tagline without having to walk into the load shadow, or directly underneath the load.
It is an extension point for locating a tagline and it can be permanently or temporarily attached to any load that has the potential to be lifted.
The TAG-EX folds out into the deployed position from a stowed position to provide an attachment point for the tagline, one which sits at a much safer distance from the load when suspended, and allows the worker to freely grasp and handle the tagline while remaining outside the line of fire of falling objects and the suspended load.
Riggers can use it to control the load as a steering arm, helping to position the load when landing, manipulate the load in tight spaces, push and pull the load and all general handling of the load, while the worker remains at a safe distance from the suspended load, keeping the dogman or rigger safe from the more common rigging and material movement hazards like pinch points and crushes.
TAG-EX is Australian owned and manufactured, and is available to order at risingfast.net.