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Cooper Equipment Rentals shows off Canadian solution for safe trench box assembly

Nathan Medcalf
Cooper Equipment Rentals shows off Canadian solution for safe trench box assembly
NATHAN MEDCALF — A contractor uses a Komatsu PC308US LC to help GroundWorks Safety System personnel assemble a trench box at an equipment demonstration at the Stouffville, Ont. location of Cooper Trench Safety — a division of Cooper Equipment Rentals. The Alberta-made trench box is lighter and faster and easier to assemble than competitive trench boxes, states the company.

GroundWorks Safety Systems recently demonstrated their trench box technology at the Stouffville, Ont. location of Cooper Trench Safety.

Cooper began representing GroundWorks as part of their commitment to the construction community.

“Cooper Equipment Rentals added the Trench Safety division to its products and services in 2016 as part of our ongoing commitment to safety, and to meeting customers’ broader equipment needs,” says Cooper Trench Safety’s business development manager Cameron Dougherty. “It was a logical fit and complement to the Cooper Equipment Rentals business and enables our seasoned experts to provide contractors with access to top-of-the-line Trench Safety equipment and advice for safe trench operations.”

More than 100 people attended the demo, which ran in mid-November. Contractors came from all across Southern Ontario.

At the demo, attendees had the opportunity to watch or participate.

They could either operate the 25-tonne excavator or help with the hands-on work of assembling and disassembling the trench shield systems from GroundWorks.

With the GroundWorks trench box, workers do not need to be near the product while the machine and product is moving. There are no pinch points and no workers under suspended loads, the company states. No worker is ever in the line of fire and all assembly/disassembly can be done using a tag line.

“With the traditional trench box with spreads wider than eight-plus feet, at some point, someone needs to place themselves into a vulnerable position, or someone needs to be under a heavy, suspended load,” says Scott Smith of GroundWorks.

At the demo, Smith related a story of a customer who is a contractor in Alberta that was using a traditional trench box. It was wide spread and was close to the machine’s maximum reach. They had all of the proper safety gear in place, but as the operator attempted to create enough height with the bucket, one of the dual-leg sets of chains came off of the bucket hook.

The panel swung down and crashed into the worker on the ground, crushing his shoulder, hip and face. He was in surgery for more than 30 hours as they tried to repair the damage, Smith said. With GroundWorks no one needs to be in that position when the box is in motion, he added.

Working in trenches can be dangerous work. Besides injury by equipment, trenches can collapse.

The GroundWorks Safety System also features fast and easy assembly and disassembly, especially with larger jobs.

“What used to take hours with a traditional trench box can be done in just a few minutes,” says Smith. “For example, we currently have tunnel boring customers that used to require two to three days each to assemble and disassemble their bore pit boxes. Now, they are in the ground in as little as five hours, using less than half the manpower and less machines. The savings on just their crane rentals per month are more than enough to cover the rent for the box.”

The trench safety industry is more than 70 years old and practices and technologies have not changed too much in that time, he adds. Trench boxes keep people safe once they are in the ground, but it is the handling of the traditional boxes that is unsafe.

GroundWorks had originally intended to use pipe spreaders in their trench box assembly just like everyone else in the industry. But when GroundWorks president Jim Foley watched a crew struggle to assemble a large trench box, he decided to find a way that doesn’t put people in such dangerous situations.

Within 30 days, the company had designed the trench box’s Universal Connection System, its Gravity Lock and the overall assembly/disassembly process; applied for patents; and demonstrated it for one of their customers.

The patent-pending Universal Connection System allows for the ability to connect and stack boxes like never before, claims Smith. Regular panels can be used as end walls complete with tabulated data.

“This drastically reduces the need for site-specific drawings, which are expensive for the contractor. The system is safer and faster to install than the current solution, which is hanging or chaining a road plate to the pipe spreaders,” says Smith.

Other customization options include safety rails, ladders, access platforms, davit arms, knife edges and stairs.

GroundWorks decided to partner with Cooper Equipment Rentals because Cooper welcomes rapid growth and is an early adopter to change, says Smith.

“Our favourite way of marketing the product is when we can get in front of potential customers like we did with Cooper Trench Safety,” says Smith.

“As impressive as GroundWorks is in pictures and video, we hear time and time again that it is nothing like seeing it in person. The men and women that work with trench boxes day in and day out are visibly relieved and excited that there is something safer available to them now. As one contractor said to me, ‘You don’t need nerves of steel to put (GroundWorks Safety Systems) together.’ ”

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