At Greater Wellington our staff face a diverse range of health and safety issues in a wide variety of working environments. Many, including the area of the business you will shortly hear about put a strong challenge on the concepts of “Zero harm” or “harm free” where even the simplest incidents often mean that staff cannot perform their job as they recover. However through the strong reporting culture that Greater Wellington is working hard to grow, uncovering both actual and potential H&S risks, we all aspire to be “Safer together today, tomorrow and into the future – Me tiakina tahi tatou ia ra ia ra.” “ The Muzzle” is an example of not only simple innovation but also a reflection of our staff desire to always be safer – whether a little or a lot!
Greater Wellington is the regional council that covers the lower section of the North Island incorporating 8 local authorities. Our work includes: Public transport Harbours Parks Environmental – monitoring, planning & regulation Water Supply Emergency management Land management Flood protection Pest plant Pest animal work
BioWorks is the pest control contracting arm of Greater Wellington Regional Council. BioWorks employs 16 staff who work to control a range of pest animals across the Wellington region. The team can typically work across 200,000ha of the 800,000ha Wellington region carrying out a variety of pest animal/vector control work involving: Bait stations Traps Aerial drops The choice of technique depends on a wide range of factors, including cost-effectiveness, community views, and environmental considerations.
We target pest animals: Feral cats Weasels/stoats Ferrets Possums – which are our main customers as part of the vector control for bovine Tb
Biowork’s office is the farmland, bush and forested areas of the region and its work is often in difficult terrain. In many cases staff work alone. They work year round in all weather from the melting snow to the hot dry days of a Wairarapa summer. To aid access and provide transport around this environment Bioworks operates a fleet of off-road motorbikes. This was recently standardised to all Honda CRF230’s
The problem Due to the uneven and sometimes unpredictable nature of the terrain (e.g. obstacles hidden in long grass such as fence battens and water pipes that can remain slippery all year round, and wet or greasy surfaces) the staff who are all trained and skilled riders do occasionally get caught out and fall from the motorbikes. Previously these incidents resulted in only minor injuries, however a new problem emerged with the Honda CRF230s where staff were burnt by the exposed exhaust port when they ended up under the bikes. Over a 12-month period two staff members suffered relative serious burns to their lower legs, including one reported to the Department of Labour as serious harm. Information from these reported accidents shows that while they have all occurred at slow speed they have often resulted in the motorbikes falling on top of the rider with them getting their lower leg caught between the front wheel and the un-protected exhaust port. This did not occur with early bikes. Both employees were off work and spent periods in alternative duties as they recovered. The burns needed to be dressed daily by a medical professional to prevent infection .
The solution – exploring all the options!! Initially we considered all possible solutions Listening to the ideas of staff and making sure nothing was ruled out before it was properly considered Motorbikes were still the safest and most efficient way to get around to complete our work
Innovative Thinking – attempt No.1 Following the first accident in February 2010, Greater Wellington’s workshop mechanic was asked to fit exhaust wrap to the exhaust ports on all of motorbike fleet to try and minimise the risk of burning in the event of a fall. This wrap worked reasonably well, reducing the extreme heat of the exhaust on contact and potential serious burns as long as the wrap remained intact. However due to the nature of use and environmental conditions that the motorbikes operate in, they get very dirty requiring regular hose downs as part of their maintenance. Under attack from mud, sand, cow dung and water, the exhaust wrap quickly deteriorated and regularly required re-application.
There was nothing found that was currently commercially available to effectively guard the exhaust that did not create other issues Following more discussion amongst the BioWorks staff members another idea was taken to the local motorcycle shop – Langland Motorcycles - for them to construct a trial item.
The final “Muzzle” was born…. It is a steel cage that effectively isolates the exhaust port and creates a space with sufficient air circulating around it so that the cage itself never gets hot and ensures that the rider’s leg can not come in direct contact with the hot exhaust port. At the same time the cage is open enough to prevent a build up of mud, as well as being robust enough to withstand regular cleaning. While there was no new technology used in the development and construction of the “Muzzle” it was produced using long standing, sound and simple engineering techniques to create a truly functional and effective solution. The end result was a simple solution to a challenging issue that effectively isolated the hot surface from potential direct contact with the rider’s skin.
Proactivity BioWorks staff did not wait for the problem to become significant, recognising from the first accident that this issue existed across the whole fleet of new motorbikes. Both solutions – initially the wrap followed by the Muzzle – were quickly fitted to every motorbike in the fleet. Work started on a more durable solution to the wrap even before it was known to be an unsustainable solution. Applicability This Muzzle can be fitted to all Honda CFR 230 motorbikes, or indeed all trail bikes that are used in a similar way. This is relevant for the other smaller fleets of different motorbikes in other parts of New Zealand, for farm work as well as for recreational riders. Results While there have been several further reported occurrences involving BioWorks staff having slow speed falls from motorbikes, there have been no reported burns from the exhaust port since the Muzzles have been fitted. By working together we did make it safer and we will continue to do so in the future.
The Muzzle: Motorbike Exhaust Port Guard
The Muzzle Motorbike exhaust port guard Being safer together today, tomorrow and into the future Me tiakina tahi tātou ia rā ia rā