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A toilet seat by any other name

May 5, 2021

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The problem: Every day it was taking almost one hour total for two employees to conduct a visual inspection under the hatch of a single 20-foot-high tank at our Copper Cliff Nickel Refinery (CCNR) in Sudbury, ON. That’s just one tank. There are multiple tanks at CCNR.

Brock Wilson, maintenance planner at our Copper Cliff Nickel Refinery in Sudbury, ON explained: “Set up consisted of creating a safety plan, reviewing the plan with all parties involved, gathering the safety equipment such as a davit arm (a retrieval system used to tie off employees who are suspended below a surface) and a harness because the size of the hatchet hole is large,” Brock said, adding, “The set up alone would take anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes to complete.”

It’s an acid plant, so we use stainless steel for everything.

Then, once geared up, an employee, working with a colleague for safety, would have to remove a bolt to open the hatch, and re-install the bolt afterwards, adding another five or 10 minutes to the job. “It was a very time-consuming task. All just to do what should be a quick visual,” said Brock.

So, in a brainstorming session, Brock, plus operations supervisor John Burchell, and external resource manager Mike Verbiwski, came up with an ingenious kaizen to solve this time-consuming and potentially dangerous task.

‘Toilet seat’ solution
The solution: install a slotted inspection plate over the hole. The slotted cover is made from ⅝ stainless steel and fits over the roughly 20 inch diameter opening, and just under the hatch. “It’s an acid plant, so we use stainless steel for everything,” said Brock.

The crew dubbed it “the toilet seat” because the hatch flips up like one, revealing the tank below, but with the opening now safely covered. The material is thick enough to support someone’s weight if they accidentally stood on it, and now that it is in place, the hatch no longer has to be bolted down.

When safety meets efficiency
Further, the task that once required two people and close to an hour to complete, can now be handled by one person in just a couple of minutes.

The crew has already installed inspection plates on five tanks at Copper Cliff and, according to Brock, a similar cover could be fashioned for any situation where there’s a large visual inspection hatch.

A safety device that saves time, and can be replicated in a variety of settings and locations: now that’s a win-win-winning kaizen!

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