Blue Grass plant workers are training on high-technology equipment that will make the job safer when they start decommissioning the buildings and equipment where chemical weapons were destroyed.
“The idea is to keep people out of harm’s way and let the machine do the most dangerous work,” said Perry Rogers, closure support specialist, Bechtel Parsons Blue Grass (BPBG). “The safety of the workforce remains our top priority through closure, and this technology will help ensure staff are safe during this phase.”
Since late July, workers have been training on five remote-controlled machines that will be used to decommission sections of buildings, remove pipes, break up concrete and cut through thick metals in the Munitions Demilitarization Building.
Accessories such as shears, saws, plasma cutters, concrete crushers and scabblers, hammers, and tank cutters will help make the jobs even safer as workers control the machines from a distance away from hazardous environments, Rogers said.
The robot control box attaches to the operator’s hips via a waist belt or it can be placed on a bench or table. Short joysticks allow operators to rest their hands on the control box, reducing stress on their shoulders and backs. This also allows the operator to focus on the task rather than the control box while maneuvering the machines.
“You can adjust the speed for what level of operator you are,” said Matt Wallace, maintenance superintendent, BPBG. “It’s very responsive. You’ve got total control. We think it’ll not only be safer for workers but also will reduce the amount of time spent on each task.”
The last chemical weapons were destroyed in the main plant July 7. Since then, workers have been transitioning from operations to the closure phase, which is expected to last three to four years.