Earthmoving Accessories, Equipment and Machinery

PIPEBOSS: Laying pipes with safety


Revolutionising pipe handling, the innovative PIPEBOSS attachment facilitates mechanical pipe movement and precise placement, enabling workers to maintain a safe distance and significantly reduce injury risks.

PIPEBOSS is a pipe handling attachment that controls pipes from swinging, allowing easy, accurate pipe laying.

This reduces potential harm to personnel and pipe damage during the process of laying all kinds of pipes.

Pipe movement and placement can be undertaken mechanically via the PIPEBOSS attachment, whilst workers are able to be within a safe distance which minimises the risk of injury.

The pipe is held in a fixed position with the PIPEBOSS attachment, and the movement is controlled by an operator, rather than the free- moving pipes with the use of chains and/or sling combinations that require more personnel in the trench.

The innovation was developed by the team at Blue Water Engineering, which has just celebrated 40 years in business.

General Manager Steve Piacun said PIPEBOSS was among the three brands owned by the Gold Coast-based company, along with Blue Water and Vaclift.

“We have developed a respected reputation in both the architectural, industrial, manufacturing, mining, civil construction and marine sectors for our knowledge, technical experience and the quality of the products delivered to our customers,” he said.

Pipe movement and precise placement can be undertaken mechanically via the PIPEBOSS attachment.


“We recognised that pipe-related worksite injuries were on the increase, hence the introduction of more stringent safety precautions and sign-offs,” Steve said.

“These costs on a regular basis add up and aren’t necessarily addressing the real issue of how to move pipes with more control and less requirement for people in the trenches, risking common injuries like crush injuries, neck and back injuries, or worse amputation, spinal injuries, permanent disablement, or even cause wrongful death.

“The less the amount of time people are exposed to moving pipes, the safer the work site will be.

“It also improves efficiency as the pipe handling can be managed directly from the cab of the excavator via PIPEBOSS’s multi-camera screens and laser alignment tool.”

Steve said PIPEBOSS was extremely versatile and can grip/manipulate pipes from small plastic pipes, heavy fence posts, right up to large concrete pipes with a diameter range of 200mm up to 925mm and a maximum lifting capacity 3000kg.

“Changing diameter is easily adjusted by moving the jaws laterally to suit the pipe size being used,” he said.

“The jaws are held by a groove system and will not fall when sliding to a new adjusted position.”

PIPEBOSS also helps lessen product damage. Concrete pipes are easily chipped or cracked, so handling them with a padded jaw with the correct measured pressure is highly beneficial.

The product is aimed at council civil works or smaller operators, who will be able to dig the trench and change over the bucket to the PIPEBOSS attachment and pick up a pipe off a truck and lay it in the trench and align it, all from his cabin.

“This negates the need for a worker in the trench guiding him, and provides speed, control, accuracy and overall efficiency,” Steve said.

Steve said an average operator would be competent at using a PIPEBOSS after half a day of operating.

“An experienced operator would be able to operate efficiently within an hour or two. The main areas to get familiar with are learning to trust the cameras as most have relied on a spotter in the past,” he said.

“PIPEBOSS allows the operator to view the whole pipe-laying process and ensure correct pipe alignment at both ends of the pipe, as
it is being installed. With the camera on the PIPEBOSS unit, the operator is able to view the pipe pickup and joining process closer, without any personnel having to be down in the trench.”

Why not a traditional grab machine?

Steve said the jaw action of the PIPEBOSS was the point of difference.

“We have one fixed and one sliding jaw. Most grabs work in a scissor motion making loading and unloading more difficult, with a traditional grab,” he said.

“Once in the trench, typically as the scissor- type grab machine releases, the jaws move away together, and this can cause the pipe to drop.

“Firstly, PIPEBOSS only requires 200mm to open and close therefore requires a narrower trench, saving time and money.

It has a unique three-point gripping/holding system at both ends of the jaws enabling the pipes to be firmly gripped at six points, and therefore held at any position along the pipe — even at one end, which is handy for fitting O rings at waist height.

“There is no need to hold the pipe in the middle at a balanced position. Having one jaw fixed with power rotation, this allows for easier and more controlled handling.

“Once in the trench, the jaws of the PIPEBOSS allow for a more precise placement with its sliding jaw action while the other stays fixed, allowing the pipe to remain stable after release.

“The changeover from the rotation motion to the clamp movement is achieved by a remote wireless system, operated directly from the excavator cab.”

Operators can view the pipe alignment from the cab of the machine with accuracy.

Why not slings and chains?

There are many ways to move pipes and traditionally it is done using slings and chains – but gravity is at play.

“If you are relying on a controller with a swinging one tonne pipe, it can be difficult to stop and can take the worker for a ride before they
will be able to control a pipe above them and navigate their footing below them,” Steve said.

“Slings and chains also require you to get into the trenches to take off the sling and slippage can be a real issue.

“Whilst it has been very much the industry standard for pipe laying, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best way of doing things.

“With your own PIPEBOSS, the pipe is held securely with foul control, preventing any dangerous swinging that occurs with slings and chain use.

“The pipe can be tilted up to 90 degrees, not only to have the opportunity to protect your workers from injury with heavy labor tasks, but to also give more control of the situation to the excavator machine driver.

“They have multiple cameras so they can see where the pipe is and they can requires workers in the trench, but it definitely makes sense to reduce human exposure to pipes in trenches. It’s about educating the industry on a new way of laying pipes that is both safer and more efficient.”

Safety example

The danger with working carelessly with pipes was demonstrated harshly by a fatality at a Telfer gold mine in WA in 2013, when a worker was crushed by a 60 metre pipe while working at a tailings storage facility.

According to the Department of Mines, the victim and a co-worker were working on a section of a 60 metre long pipe, while another section was being moved by an industrial forklift.

The pipe moved suddenly, striking the co- worker and crushing the victim against the ground.

The mining contractor involved was fined $130,000, with the Magistrate saying the company could have prevented exposing the victim to the hazard if a proper risk assessment of the pipe process had been conducted.

“Companies cannot become complacent and allow unsafe practices to occur during their usual operations,” he said.

State Mining Engineer Andrew Chaplyn said the failure to identify the tailings storage hazard essentially placed the workers in the direct line of fire in the event of uncontrolled movement of the pipe.

Australian-designed, Australian-made and an Australian-owned business, PIPEBOSS is designed to increase efficiencies and decrease the time needed to manage pipes, hence making projects move faster and safer.

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