Sewer maintenance training: mind the gap
The training for main line sewer work is now subject to a five-year renewal

Over recent years, there has been a great improvement in site safety and training requirements in both intention and practice, notwithstanding how they are policed. How can training be delivered to ensure quality, particularly where sewer maintenance is concerned?

Ignoring whether your procurement department is looking for the lowest price, how much does it understand the key requirements of more specialised disciplines to ensure that you have a cost-effective result – that is to say that something only needs to be efficiently done once.

The next question to ask is how thoroughly the relevant training qualifications are checked once a company is placed on the shortlist prior to contract award. It should be remembered that many training disciplines require reassessment every three to five years. As the main contractor, do you check on retraining/reassessment during the term of the contract? My guess is that you rely on your human resource department to ensure that your own company updates training but, not being directly responsible on these occasions, it is more likely that you will rely on your sub-contractor to ensure reassessment without taking responsibility for carrying out spot checks.

In the case of sewer maintenance, it should been borne in mind that the majority of the work is carried out on roads or on private property. Construction sites are occasionally visited and occasionally companies work on rail land.

Health and safety training is paramount due to the environment in which they work. Personal hygiene is important and all units should include soap and water for hand cleansing.

Any reputable company will ensure that site staff has the relevant training. However, we then have the problem of carrying the required card if working on construction sites. At the last count, there were about 24 different cards, including CSCS (the Construction Skills Certification Scheme) and SHEA (Safety, Health and Environmental Awareness) Water. It is a costly exercise if all your site staff are required to hold three cards to ensure being site ready, which then have to be renewed bi-annually.

Regulatory changes

It should be noted that there has been a change to the CRO card system issued by CSCS from 30 September 2017. All cards issued after October 2015 will expire and those issued before that date will expire at the given date. It is expected that holders will move to the appropriate partner card (eg SHEA Water).

The New Roads & Street Works Act requires training, for both operators and supervisors working on our roads, in lighting, guarding and coning. Among other requirements under the Act, are location and avoidance of underground apparatus, excavation, reinstatement and backfill and replacement of surfaces. Each of these units has a five year reassessment.

Other requirements

Sewer maintenance training
It is likely that the onus will be on the sub-contractor to ensure sewer survey training requirements are up to date

For those trained in First Aid, an annual refresher is recommended with a three-year reassessment. For those working on rail track, a medical is required and the PTS card is renewable every two years

Due to the nature of our work, confined space training is essential. Where the bulk of a company’s work is carried out on sewers, the training includes the use of breathing apparatus. A refresher course for breathing apparatus is recommended every six months, whilst the full course has to be retaken every three years. It would be helpful if water companies and other bodies recognised each other’s training courses to reduce costs for both parties.

The specialisms of water jetting and CCTV inspections have additional training requirements. The Water Jetting course covers the safety of working with water at high pressure and the security of the pipework being cleaned. This course has a three-year renewal requirement.

CCTV reporting should be to the standards laid down in the latest edition of the Manual of Sewer Condition Classification. This is the standard accepted by the water companies for the past 30 years, which is in line with EN BS13508:2 and its update. The manual is also used for both drains and highways work, although there are documented amendments for these disciplines. The training for main line sewer work is now subject to a five-year renewal by either assessment or retraining. It is necessary to check with the employing authority whether they are using Edition 4 or 5 as we are in a transition period.

The certification for these courses is now overseen by WRc on behalf of Water UK. Other courses are now being run by others for private drainage but, again, these should be relative to the above documentation. The standards for equipment and working methods are set out in the Model Contract Document for Sewer Condition Inspection. The document needs amendment but the key features have not changed.

As you can see from the above, there is much training and retraining to keep an eye on during the course of a contract. If you are not ensuring that training is updated by all your contractors, smaller, specialist companies with very competent staff could be particularly disadvantaged, as training is costly. So please – mind the gap.