People who work in construction deal with change every day, it’s what they do. Managing change requires knowledge, experience and a problem solving spirit. Not enough is heard of these everyday site heroes.

Here is an attempt to recount an inspiring story we heard the other day. For us the story illustrates the resourcefulness of the industry. At the same time though, the story is also a reminder that a lack of design rigour and poor planning puts people in danger and project timelines at risk!

Necessity is the mother of invention

Without going into specifics, the job was a large scale infrastructure project and there were some pretty hefty LADs associated with any late completion.

Part of the job was completing a sewage pipeline which ran over 4 km in length. Each pipe section was 30m long with a 750mm internal diameter and surrounded by concrete. All these pipes had to be welded together internally to connect them.

A sewage pipeline

 

There were basically mountains of these pipes needing to be connected but there was one slight problem: no one could fit into the pipes!

Stumped by this problem the guys tasked with this job went to the local bar one evening for a spot of brainstorming among other things. Coincidentally, at the bar that evening was a ‘little person’ drinking his beer.

These guys looked at each other and with a classic ‘are you thinking what I am thinking?’ moment, they nodded and went over to have a chat with him.

They explained the problem and how he could help since he might be able to fit into the pipes!!! They said that if he was up for it, they could train him up and get him a job on the pipeline project. The guy jumped at the chance saying that he hated his job, and the very next day he turned up on site ready for action.

They gave him a trolley (the kind a mechanic uses to inspect a car) and connected it to a piece of rope. The idea was spot on and this guy on his trolley was the ‘perfect fit’ for the job inside the pipe! They trained him up and then when the time came he was ready to go. It was such a success that the guy eventually got a full time job with this company and was used all around the world on projects.

Lessons learnt?

Even though it’s a good story, the questions should be asked, how could this have been avoided? With a critical eye, the story demonstrates a very poor design structure. The first focus should have been on minimising and eliminating working in confined spaces.

One way to avoid such situations is to have systems in place for good design critique. By improving communication channels at an earlier stage with an online collaboration platform, problems could have been flagged and solved sooner. On top of that, using an intuitive tracking software, the Site Managers here could have tracked the progress of the Subbie, making sure that all work was according to programme (keeping those nasty LADs at bay).

We would love to hear some war stories of yours or any thought about this one!