10 Essential Tools for Pipeline Inspections

Think all you need for pipeline inspections are cameras and crawlers? Wrong. Don't forget these basic hand tools.
10 Essential Tools for Pipeline Inspections

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When it comes to pipeline inspections, plumbers and drain cleaners sometimes focus only on the inspection equipment — cameras, crawlers, cable and cable reels. While all of these are essential to properly inspect sewer lines and laterals, some basic tools are just as important to have on hand. 

If the right tool is not kept on the inspection van, inspections can come to a standstill. The day could be a complete loss if a manhole can’t be opened or a minor repair can’t be performed. 

Here are 10 basic tools every CCTV van should include to ensure inspections are done safely and efficiently: 

1.     Manhole hook
To begin any inspection, you need to be able to remove a manhole lid in order to gain access to the pipeline below. Manhole hooks or other lifting devices simplify lid removal and minimize strain on workers’ backs.

2.     Sledgehammer
Over time, manhole lids can become impossible to lift with just a manhole hook. They get paved over, wedged because of an accumulation of dirt between the lid and the rim, or just corroded. A few overhead swings with a sledgehammer will loosen the manhole cover and dislodge stubborn lids.

3.     Gas monitor
As a safety precaution, most agencies require workers to smell around a manhole lid before removing the cover. Doing this simple task can save your life and the lives or your workers, so even if it’s not a requirement in your area, it is still a good habit to follow. Pressurized gases such as methane and hydrogen sulfide below the lid can cause an explosion with a single spark.

It’s also possible to become overwhelmed by the escaping gases during manhole cover removal. In accordance with OSHA regulations for confined-space entry, agencies that require the use of gas monitors will send a crew home if one is not found on the van. So don’t forget a gas monitor on your next trip down the manhole.

4.     Downhole roller
The downhole roller tool protects the cable and should be used at all times. As the crawler travels down the pipeline, it enters the manhole and makes a 90-degree bend at the invert. The friction created at this point is not only harmful to the cable, but could also damage the invert of the pipe.  

5.     Lowering rope 
Placing the camera and crawler into the trough of the manhole requires a quality lowering rope. Without it, crew members risk damaging an expensive camera when placing it in the pipeline. Lowering ropes should be replaced regularly.

6.     Digging bar
Manholes are not always readily accessible. They are often buried under a layer of asphalt or a few inches of dirt. A digging bar will help workers break through these obstructions and uncover the manhole lid. The tool’s lightweight design makes it easy to use.

7.     Shovel
Clearing dirt around the opening is an important step before removing a manhole cover. When the lid is removed, the last thing you want is a mound of dirt pouring into the manhole structure and the pipeline trough below.

Shovels have many useful functions including uncovering buried manholes and cleaning the manhole ring before lid replacement.

8.     Flashlight
Workers should look into a manhole at the start of any CCTV inspection to determine flow and structural conditions. Because manhole structures can be deep and very dark, flashlights provide workers with the necessary light to estimate the depth of the structure and if any special tools or equipment are needed for entry.

If a flashlight is not available, a mirror can be used to reflect sunlight directly into the manhole.

9.     Toolkit
One thing is guaranteed with CCTV inspection equipment — repairs. In one form or another, repairs are needed on a regular basis. Rather than limp back to the yard, most repairs can be performed in the field.

A toolkit with tools that match the camera system can mean the difference between a productive day and one that is wasted. The toolkit should be inventoried on a regular basis to ensure that the right tools are available when needed.

10.  Electrical repair kit
Having a well-stocked electrical kit handy will help keep equipment running. Whether it’s checking the voltage, continuity or performing small repairs with a soldering iron, these tools can make a difference when it counts. 

You’ll put most of these tools on your CCTV inspection van at the time of purchase. Unfortunately, over time they tend to get lost or misplaced. It is essential that all contractors have a procedure in place that ensures each of these tools can always be found on the service van. 

About the Author
Jim Aanderud is owner of Innerline Engineering, a video pipeline inspection company based in Corona, California.



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