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Safety Considerations for Lifting Submersible Pumps

Romtec Utilities engineers and supplies complete pump stations with all structural, mechanical, electrical, and communications systems, and the overwhelming majority of new pump stations utilize submersible pumps. Pump maintenance is an ongoing and important facet of owning and operating a pump station. This means that at some point it is likely the pump will have to be lifted from the wet well for maintenance. Although this is a common activity that occurs regularly in most maintenance departments, pulling pumps can pose a safety risk if the best practices are not followed. Here are some good safety considerations to bear in mind when lifting submersible pumps.

Romtec Utilities always designs pumps stations with reliable fall protection in the form of a hatch safety grate. This feature is important for the safety of maintenance personnel for a couple reasons. The most important and obvious reason is using it as fall protection, but safety grates are only reliable if they are closed. When pulling pumps, keep the grate closed as often as possible. Open the safety grate only when the pump is being lifted, and close the grate immediately afterward. This protects personnel from falling in the well, but it also prevents tools and other objects from falling in. One of the biggest dangers posed to maintenance personnel is in trying to recover an object that has fallen into the well. Preventing this, in turn, prevents a list of additional safety hazards.

Pump Being Raised for Maintenance

The second safety benefit of a safety grate is the hygienic and sanitary protection of maintenance personnel, especially when dealing with wastewater. Pulling pumps from a well will be dirty. The pumps will be covered with sewage and/or other unsanitary materials, even in stormwater applications. A safety grate can be lowered to set the pump on as a cleaning area. Rinsing off pumps directly on the safety grate means that the majority of unsanitary materials will drain back into the well. Maintenance personnel should be outfitted with gloves and eye protection for personal protection. Following these steps keeps the pump station site sanitary over time, protecting personnel and their equipment from germs, pathogens, and possibly harmful chemicals.

If a safety grate is not available on your pumping system, Romtec Utilities recommends retrofitting your top slab and hatch to include this features. On a pumping system, this is an incredibly important safety feature.

In addition to correct use of the safety grate, another important safety tip to follow when lifting a pump is to never lift or manipulate a pump by its pump cable. The most important reason for this is that pumps are heavy and can sometimes fall back into a well. If a crane fails or a cable breaks while a maintenance person is holding the pump cable, the falling pump can drag the person into the well like a boat anchor. Since the safety grate must be open at while the pump is being lifted, this is when personnel are in the most vulnerable position. The other reason not to manipulate the pump by its cable is that it can damage the pump itself.

If a crane is available, personnel should always use a crane to lift pumps from a well, even if the pumps are small. If a crane is not available, winches, lifting hoists, and “come-alongs” are all good and affordable options to prevent hand lifting pumps from a well. Relying on hand-lifting often times does not work correctly because of either over-estimating the strength of various personnel or simply accidents that occur while lifting. All Romtec Utilities pumping systems include a thin stainless steel cable that suspends a length of stainless steel chain attached to the pumps. This chain is included specifically as a place for lifting devices to attach.

Often times, safety procedures for operating and maintaining a pump station are common sense, but it is important to recognize and train for issues that can present dangerous conditions when lifting submersible pumps from a well. Providing the correct equipment and outlining best practices can help eliminate many safety concerns, from sanitation to personal injury. Romtec Utilities works to design and supply every pump station with the safest equipment and configurations at the best possible value to our customers.

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