Working in the extremes of the North West

May 2015

Paul Dougan, Dave Parker and their crew have certainly experienced all seasons that the Pilbara has to offer since they commenced the Onslow Tanks contract for SRG and Water Corporation in December 2014. This has included record high temperatures, consistently high wind speeds, cyclones and rain events. These have necessitated Paul and his workforce to continually re-assess the risks, implement new systems and manage both personnel and equipment to ensure that everyone remains safe. Despite these challenges, the works on site have continued without fault, allowing the project to be completed in May 2015.

Paul and his crew have been in the North West since early 2013. They have been working on a number of projects for Water Corporation including Bungaroo pipeline and Searipple pumping station, for Lend Lease at Deepdale, for TFS at Kununurra and now for SRG at the Onslow Tanks. The crew has experienced some severe weather but all agree that the toughest conditions to date have been felt at the Onslow Tanks site over the past four months.

Onslow is well known for being a windy coastline, particularly during the summer months. Adding to this is the fact that the location of the works is at the top of the highest hill in the district, just South of the townsite where high velocity wind driven sand has the effect of a sandblaster. With long sleeves, long pants, sun protection and fully sealed eye protection, the crew managed to work through these tough conditions in a professional manner. Paul managed the crew with regular breaks and a rotation of work activities, since the drainers and labourers within the trench received the worst impact from the prevailing winds.

In conjunction with the windy conditions, on February 21st, the temperature reached 47.4°C, an incredibly harsh environment to work in. However, the crew pushed on by taking regular rest breaks, increased fluid intake with electrolytes and shade positions wherever possible. It was the phones, excavators and loaders, compactors and survey equipment that were failing due to the heat, making progress difficult. Through careful management, all personnel onsite worked through these conditions with no reports of heat stress.

In contrast to the heat, our crew onsite also worked through some equally severe wet weather systems including category three cyclone "Olwyn". With the cyclone passing over Exmouth, Onslow was still in the zone of destructive winds. Regular updates of the cyclone’s trajectory and category were provided and category three cyclone accommodation was secured to ensure that all personnel were safe. Materials storage and equipment anchorage prior to Blue Alert ensured that all assets survived the storm and didn’t pose a personal injury risk. Later the same month, a tropical low descended on Onslow and 125mm of rain fell within 24 hours. From their experience of similar rain events at both Bungaroo and Searipple, Paul was well prepared and he ensured that all trenches were closed, pipe ends sealed and that all equipment was relocated from low lying areas. This prevented unfinished pipework from floating and protected any other assets from damage due to inundation from the intense rainfall event.

Through perseverance, Paul, Dave and the team involved in the Onslow Tanks project have all but completed a very challenging task. This included six sections of very detailed pipework, a complex manifold system and valve installation and cross-connections to modify flow operations. This required a high degree of organisation and management, particularly on a remote project and all the challenges that nature can present.

Congratulations to the team on a job well done and also to the essential support from the departments of purchasing and logistics, safety, quality and environment and human resources.