Did you know many things can go wrong causing a cooling tower to be EXTREMELY unsafe?
In fact, do you remember the last time your cooling tower was inspected recently?
We had the opportunity to sit down with the owners of Flowmatrix, Darren and Jason to discuss the importance of cooling tower safety, and why this needs to be understood and always considered.
FlowMatrix is a 100% Australian-owned and operated company that specialises in commercial and industrial cooling tower site work in Victoria, NSW and the ACT. With over 30 years of experience, they have replaced and repaired many brands and makes of cooling towers, being steel, fibreglass, and timber.
Cooling towers can easily go neglected, but their efficient operation is crucial if you want to minimise safety risks for your employees, customers, the general public, and your business.
The importance of maintaining your cooling tower to keep it safe:
There are several very important reasons for keeping your cooling tower regularly inspected, maintained, and repaired. Some of these include:
- Prevention of Legionella outbreaks
- Improved cooling performance
- Reduction in energy consumption
- Extends the life of your assets, and reduces capital expense
- Meets compliance with government regulations
- Compliance with manufacturer’s operational and maintenance instructions
- Reduced costs in the repair of failed components
- Compliance with AS/NZS 3666.1:2011. Air-handling and water systems of buildings
Assess and safety ladders
Installing the correct type of cooling tower is very important. One that is best suited to the requirements of any organisation, building, and individual specific needs.
On top of this, what is equally or possibly more important is that cooling towers are installed in manners where proper and adequate access is created, allowed for, so that inspections, repairs, and maintenance can be provided in a safe fashion.
FlowMatrix designs manufactures and installs cooling tower access platforms and safety ladders in customised ways, to provide safe and easy access to inspect, service, and repair cooling towers. These are specially designed to suit cooling towers, to gain access to the interior components, valves, and the fan drives.
Access providers that do normal walkways and ladders generally have no idea of how a cooling tower built so they get the access wrong
Cooling tower platforms need to be safe, durable and adhere to all relevant standards, guidelines, and legislation.
In order to meet workplace safety standards, FlowMatrix specialise in the designing and building of new platforms, as well as the modernisation and update of outdated and risky access points. They even consider lifting points on the platforms to allow the removal of access hatches, motors and fans.
All platforms are made of lightweight, structural aluminium that allows for flexible design and installation to meet the exact requirements of their clients. The design includes the necessary roof railings, ladder support brackets, and industrial steps to guarantee the technicians and inspectors have simple access and a safe working environment.
Flowmatrix can also customise your platforms to include a wide range of features including lockable gates, anchor points, slat screen fencing, fold-down ladders, walkways, and much more.
They are also able to re-arrange a lot of the internal components on cooling towers if required to do so.
Jason explained that Flowmatrix “has the ability and in a lot of cases MUST create new access points” as a recent case where a new safety access hatch was needed to be able to get in to do any inspection/repair.
“This was a new cooling tower that had been installed with an access panel that was facing the internal wall, roughly 8 metres high, with about half a metre space between the wall and hatch, to get to it. There was absolutely no way we could get to the hatch to inspect the unit let alone be able to remove elements from it for repairs or even cleaning.
In this case, FlowMatrix had to cut through and create a new hatch on the opposite side, to then assess the tower, inspect and repair it. That is why you need experienced cooling tower installers and repairers to solve cooling tower access issues.
FlowMatrix can also provide fibreglass walkways that serve as sunlight block-out to lessen the spread of germs and bacteria such as Legionella in the basin water. All internal cooling tower parts, including drift eliminators, fill packs, fans, strainers, ball float valves, motors, pulleys, belts, shafts, and the overall structure, can be thoroughly inspected using our platforms.
Advantages of fibreglass walkthroughs:
Reduces the Legionella risk
Easy to handle
Easy to clean
Click to play video ^
Risks when working in a cooling tower
A lot of cooling towers are located in very dangerous places, like on rooftops creating an unsafe environment for anyone who needs to inspect the tower. Additionally, cooling towers are frequently home to important parts that need routine inspection and repair, such as water distribution systems, drift eliminators, and fans that all require entry into the cooling tower to reach, meaning maintenance and inspectors cannot perform their required activities without being exposed to unacceptable safety hazards such as confined spaces and slips and trips. exposure to electricity, chemicals, and even dangerous bacteria and chemicals.
It is important to note that the safety of the guys who enter the cooling towers to tend to any repairs, is properly accounted for. Additionally, PPE gear is always required as well as additional equipment like oxygen masks in some cases while dealing with the possible Bacteria is always accounted for.
Legionnaire’s disease is a potentially fatal disease caused by the legionella bacteria. In 2014, 424 cases of legionellosis was notified to the NNDSS.
If a cooling tower is not properly maintained on a regular basis, Legionella bacteria may start to grow, there may be spots where dirt accumulates, or stagnant water leads to the formation of bacteria that can enter the circulating air supply and pose a risk of infection for the entire structure.
Legionnaires disease is normally caused when air is drawn or forced through a cooling tower. It collects airborne particles / droplets known as drift and these particles are carried into the environment. The drift eliminators are the only thing installed in a cooling tower that can stop these droplets
Jason said “Legionella disease thrives the most in 30-degree temperatures, which is the normal temperate of the human body causing the disease to be so fatal to humans as we are the perfect home for the Bacteria to latch on to”
Get it right the First time!
Our highly trained technicians are experts at carrying out mechanical inspections, repairs, and interpreting risk management planning audits to ensure the smooth operation of all brands of cooling towers.
It is extremely important to make sure your cooling tower is not only being installed properly but is also being safely maintained.
Jason gave us an example using a story from one of their clients that owns a plant room in the city, “they have had their cooling tower installed by a refrigeration mechanics (not a cooling tower expert),” and Jason was called out to the job only to see that their access hatch only had about a meter on space for someone to enter.
The installer had turned the pipe around the wrong way making it a total safety hazard. FlowMatrix has now designed and installed an up-to-code access platform as well as changing the placement of the safety access hatch. These issues are very common unfortunately and can always be easily avoided if it was just done correctly the first time by the proper experts, it would have saved the company money and would have ensured a safe cooling tower from day one.,
Modular parts for safety
Modular parts are the easiest way to ensure safety in any size, make or model of cooling tower, FlowMatrix installs, repair, and sell modular parts for many reasons other than safety.
Jason explained the reason why modular parts are highly recommended for the safety of not only the people who enter cooling towers but the cooling tower itself,
Modular parts are extremely easy to take out, move around and adjust allowing for someone to enter the space, modular parts are also extremely easy to clean which is great for cooling tower cleaners.
Coolclean is a company that specialises in the cleaning of cooling towers they also highly endorse modular parts stating that they create a safer space for every cooling tower. As of 2019, it is now a legal requirement to clean the interior surfaces of all cooling towers in Victoria, modular parts allow peace of mind that your cooling tower will always be government compliant.
Didn’t know that it was a legal requirement to clean your cooling tower? Book in to get a quote from Coolclean today.
FMX inspection and assess process
Jason spoke about FlowMatrix’s process of coming out to access and diagnose your cooling tower, they pride themselves on the expertise they carry, which is why they love to personalise each and every inspection to make sure your cooling tower is up to standard with Workplace Access & Safety:
A Risk Assessment:
Meet all government regulatory standards and that your complete and accurate risk management plan can be presented upon request. Risk management plans are required to be completed within a year of the registration of the cooling tower system and should continue to be inspected once every year.
What risk assessments can include:
- Regular inspections
- Regular servicing
- Monthly HCC testing to identify bacterial levels in the system
- Legionella testing.
An Audit Report:
An individual risk management plan and custom-designed solutions to your problem. In each report, FMX includes a detailed sketched-out diagram with photos that were taken on-site.
They then get back to you in about 5 days with a very personalized quote explaining what needs to be done and why it needs to be done, you can then confirm what FlowMatrix has diagnosed for your cooing tower then they will come back and provide you with exactly that. A quote with a scope of work, parts required, recommendations, compliance information, and photos that show faulty components.
Don’t stress about your cooling tower being unsafe, let the professional help you out allowing you to always have peace of mind.
Call FlowMatrix to come out and have a look at your cooling tower today.