A New Zealand Herald columnist, who questioned the retirement of former Fonterra chairman John Wilson in July last year, is…
His passion was abseiling and rock climbing as a kid. Now he is the owner of a new company based in Marlborough, NZ Access, which utilises industrial abseiling and height safety engineering to help businesses with specialist access and remedial engineering issues.
It isn’t exactly a new industry, but utilising it within wineries is a new adjunct for New Zealand.
Goble, who recently moved to Marlborough, brings with him 13 years of expertise in specialist access and remedial engineering, firstly in the oil and gas industry here in New Zealand, and more latterly in Australia.
“I worked for a company called Absafe, which is a consulting company. They do structural inspections of bridges, facades of buildings, assets for power stations, and height safety engineered systems for a wide range of customers. We would do a lot of remedial engineering, where we would fix existing structures, concrete repair work, installing height safety systems, welding repairs inside power stations – all sorts of stuff.”
Not for the feint hearted, especially when you realise the work is done tens of metres off the ground.
Goble says when he arrived in Marlborough, he quickly realised there was an opening for specialist access and remedial engineering within the wine industry, particularly around the massive wine tanks.
“I knew we could help out with access and safety systems with tanks, confined space works and roof systems for a range of inspections and wielding repairs. And I had done a lot of that stuff in the food and dairy industry in Australia. But I wasn’t aware that there was such a need for external work.”
Given any work that is undertaken on a structure that is more than two metres high has to meet workplace standards, wineries have often had to bring scaffolding in to provide workers with safe working environments. But that isn’t always an option in an enclosed environment such as a tank farm.
While more modern wineries are built to compliance, Goble has discovered many others are facing safety issues, when it comes to staff working at height.
“There are a lot of workplaces out there that have height safety equipment, with employees working at height, but a lot of it doesn’t meet the current standards. All working at height equipment needs to be inspected every six months and tagged as per the new standards.
“So we can inspect anchor points, put up safety systems and provide static lines where they are needed.
“We do a free risk assessment on a winery site, outline the key areas they are exposed that could be a potential for a hazard or fall. Then we can provide a list of recommendations on how to remove those risks and meet compliance.”
Added to the industrial abseiling, the company is also providing a wide range of height safety anchor products and ladder access systems.
“There has not been the best support in the South Island for these areas ,” Goble says, “The feedback I was getting was that that could mean a four-week turnaround, with quotes and site visit.”
While large tanks within a winery are an obvious subject for maintenance via abseiling, Goble says another area is roof repairs.
“Instead of having to put up scaffolding, we are putting in safety lines on the roof, which is a proprietary system. The employee can stay connected to it at all times, get around the whole building under full restraint. That system won’t allow you to fall off – you can go right to the edge but no further. What that means is the winery doesn’t have to bring scaffolding in just to go up and wash the gutters or do a roof inspection.”
Industrial abseiling has also been a unique way for wineries who are still dealing with repairs to tanks and gantries after the November 2016 earthquake. Being able to abseil into a tank from the top, to look for damage, or to help in the recladding has been a major component of the work undertaken in recent months.
“Without industrial abseiling a lot of this work we are doing would require scaffolding being brought in or working out of a crane basket or cherry picker.”
It is a novel way of dealing with height and space restricted environments, while at the same time Goble’s love of being in the air, held by harnesses, anchor points and ropes, is also satisfied.