Give Your CCTV Equipment Some TLC

Learn how to properly train operators to prevent unnecessary damage to inspection equipment.
Give Your CCTV Equipment Some TLC
CCTV inspection equipment is most commonly damaged during insertion and removal through the manhole. Proper training and care is critical to keeping your operation up and running. (Photography by Jim Aanderud)

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Good CCTV inspection equipment can be a great revenue generator, but if it’s not handled properly, repair costs will have a big impact on your bottom line.

If you’re inspecting sewer laterals or other outside lines with cameras on tractors or crawlers, your equipment is in constant danger.

The truth is that CCTV inspection equipment is delicate. The manufacturer may demonstrate the strength of its construction by banging on it or dropping it from a few inches off the ground, but these demonstrations are done with brand-new equipment that hasn’t experienced the wear and tear of regular use.

Most CCTV inspection equipment works hard. It is placed in pipe after pipe, day in and day out. If treated properly, it will run for long periods of time, but when it’s not, it will spend much of its time at a repair facility and cut deeply into your bottom line.

The sad truth is that 90 percent of required repairs are due to human error.

Reducing repair costs
The first step in reducing repair costs is providing proper training. Everyone who uses the equipment must be well versed in operation and handling.

The next step is to address “pride of ownership.” It’s important to help your employees understand that the equipment they control belongs as much to them as it does to you. They need to recognize that mishandling the equipment will affect them financially in the loss of bonuses and raises.

Over time, some employees become indifferent to the delicateness of the CCTV equipment they operate. Carelessness sets in and they begin to lose perspective of the value of the equipment and start treating it like a pry bar or a manhole hook. The fact is that most CCTV cameras and crawlers are equivalent in cost to a luxury car. If your technicians were lowering a car into the manhole, there’s no doubt that they would be much more careful. Remind them of the value and the cost of repairs.

Understand the cause
Camera equipment is most commonly damaged during insertion and removal. Cameras are accidently dropped and wind up crashing into the bottom of the manhole during this process. A simple wrong step can cause an individual to drop the camera onto the pavement. But the most common cause is allowing the camera to bang against the side of the manhole while lowering it in or pulling it out.

Striking the camera against the sidewall of a manhole may seem harmless at the time. Most of the time the lights are still burning, video is still running and the tractor is still crawling. But what the operator can’t see is that the pressure inside the camera has been compromised. Positive pressure keeps water out of most cameras. Once the seal has been broken, there is nothing to prevent water from entering the camera. And we all know what water does to electronics.

After an incident like this, most operators will assume the equipment is still working properly and continue the inspection. But the first time the camera goes underwater, whether it is that day or a few days later, moisture will reach the electronics and the camera will go down. Since the camera didn’t stop working right after it struck the sidewall, there is no understanding of the real cause of damage. Repairs will cost thousands, and operators will continue to handle the equipment roughly, making it likely the incident repeats itself.

The right way
It’s important to ensure that the rope and cable are perfectly vertical when lifting the camera out of the manhole. If they are at an angle, the camera will swing and strike the side of the manhole. If the camera begins to swing, it’s important to lower it back down to stop the momentum. If that isn’t possible, staying motionless until the swinging diminishes will be helpful. Sometimes the motion can be counteracted with the rope or cable in order to stop the swinging.

CCTV equipment can be very heavy, so the best way to maintain control is to have two people on hand to lift and lower the camera. Many inspection vans come equipped with a winch that can help facilitate the insertion and removal, but the same precautions should still be taken. Even with a winch, the camera can swing and strike the side of the manhole.

When finishing one inspection run and beginning another from the same location, the camera must be lifted and turned into the secondary invert. It is common to sustain damage during this process because the camera must swing around in order to line up with the new pipe. During this process, the camera will tend to turn quickly when the support rope and the tractor cable are overlapped, so this has to be done slowly and carefully to protect the equipment.

Sometimes conditions increase the potential for damage. For example, not all manholes are perfectly vertical. Some are built at an angle while others can have unusual configurations that make them difficult to work with or don’t allow a vertical drop because the invert is beyond the reach of the rope. Most crews tend to swing the rope back and forth across the manhole structure until the camera swings far enough to be dropped into the invert. The safest way to perform this task is to use poles to gradually and carefully push the camera into place.

Most damage inflicted on CCTV inspection equipment is caused by individuals who lack training and experience. Without proper instruction, they won’t understand the necessary precautions and will invariably and unintentionally damage the equipment.

By ensuring that the equipment is handled properly, you’ll be more efficient and more profitable. 


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