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Drilling and Tapping: The Mains Man

Jason Barratt's skill in drilling and tapping water mains has led to him competing around the world as well as advancing his career

Jason Barratt (right) is one half of Anglian Water's champion drilling and tapping teamJason Barratt (right) is one half of Anglian Water's champion drilling and tapping team

Jason Barratt - CV

● Jason Barratt has worked on water networks in the Anglian Water region since 1997, for contractor Balfour Beatty and for the last three years in-house at Anglian

● He has worked on the installation of water meters and of new mains, in mains rehab, pipe repair and in the use of no-dig technology such as slip lining. His current role is as a Solutions Delivery Engineer, where he scopes, designs and oversees schemes for improving the water network

● He first took part in the UK Drilling and Tapping competition, which is organised by the Institute of Water, in 2009. He competes alongside his colleague Lee Maddock; in international competition a third team member is also required

● He has won the UK competition in seven out of the last nine years, with a quickest time of 2 minutes, 2 seconds

● You can see Jason Barratt and Lee Maddock in action, and have a go at Drilling & Tapping yourself, by coming along to the Institute of Water’s event at Canwick Treatment Works near Lincoln on Nov 17th. Event details: www.instituteofwater.org.uk/events Or contact Lucy Archer at lucy@instituteofwater.org.uk or 0191 422 0088.

-Interview by James Brockett

Not many people in any field of activity are able to call themselves a world champion, but Jason Barratt, Solutions Delivery Engineer at Anglian Water, is one of them.

Barratt is one half of the two-man Anglian Water team which triumphed in May at the Institute of Water’s Drilling and Tapping competition, held annually at the Utility Week Live conference and exhibition in Birmingham. His seven victories in the competition over the years have also led to him taking part in the World Water Cup - competing against European and American opponents in Las Vegas and Amsterdam - and along with his colleague Lee Maddock, he has been a world champion of drilling and tapping for the last two years.

He has worked on water networks in the Anglian Water region since 1997, for many years as a contractor for Balfour Beatty, before going in-house at Anglian three years ago. While his promotions mean he no longer works with drilling and tapping tools on a daily basis, this has not stopped him training or taking part in the competition – or winning.

“When I was on the ground, drilling and tapping was part of the day job,” he recalls. “You tap mains to make a new connection, and then when you replace a section of pipe after a burst main, if there’s a service in the section you’ve replaced then you have to tap the main again to put the customer back on water. Obviously what you do in your working life and what you do in the competition are completely different in terms of speed, but the methods, the equipment and the fittings are exactly the same.”

Since entering the competition for the first time in 2009, not only have Barratt’s times improved – his 2017 time of two minutes and two seconds is a formidable record – but his career has also moved forward in leaps and bounds. Having worked in water meter installation, pipe repair and maintenance, new mains installation and mains rehab over the years, he recently became a registered Engineering Technician (EngTech) via the Institute of Water, which helped him progress into his current role as a design engineer. He now has responsibility for scoping, designing and overseeing schemes, and takes decisions that affect the water supply system for whole areas – for example, he is currently seeing through work to optimise the network in Milton Keynes town centre.

He says there is no doubt that taking part in Drilling in Tapping competitions both in the UK and internationally has helped his career – as well as the cut and thrust of the competition itself, he values the chance to meet and chat with his counterparts in other companies, learn about new techniques and equipment, and to browse the exhibitions for new innovations.

“I’ve seen a lot of innovations through the competition that I wouldn’t have otherwise – whether that’s line stopping, or leakage technology. Travelling around and getting to meet with teams from different companies, you pick up tips along the way which can make your working life a bit easier as well.

“When we won at the NEC in 2010, we got to go to America in 2011, and that was the first time we’d seen line stopping. We’d heard about it, but thought it was a specialist technique that wasn’t something we’d be involved with. But once we saw it close up, and the smaller scale line stopping equipment that was available, it changed our minds. We told everybody about it when we got back and in the end the technology got put through into Anglian.”

Barratt has taken part in demonstrations of drilling and tapping for the benefit of other departments in Anglian Water, and has also passed on his enthusiasm for the competition to his family. His wife Lesley and daughter Kayleigh, who both work for Clancy Docwra in office-based roles, have competed in the competition and won the Ladies’ title in 2016. It only goes to show that while those who are drilling and tapping mains all day as part of their job may enjoy an advantage, anybody can win through if they have enough training and commitment.

This year there was increased pressure going into the competition, he jokes.

“Because it’s Las Vegas next year, my daughter said: ‘if you win this year Dad, I’m going to get married next year in Vegas.’ So there’s no pressure there! Fortunately, we did win - and they’re going to get married the weekend after the competition.”

On November 17th Anglian Water are hosting an open day, in conjunction with the Institute of Water, in Lincoln where interested parties from other water companies and contractors, or anybody in the water industry who might like to take part, can come along to learn about Drilling and Tapping and try their hand at the task. So what would Jason say to anybody thinking about giving drilling and tapping a try for the first time?

“If you’ve used equipment like this in the past, and you’ve got experience of the machine and what it does, then of course it makes it easier. But anybody can learn how to do it, and whoever you are, it’s only practice that helps you get the speed up.

“I would recommend it to anyone, because there’s a great camaraderie for those taking part. Obviously if you win, that’s always a plus. But we’ve got good friends now that we’ve made through the competition - from all over the world, but particularly from the water industry in England, who we keep in touch with when we travel in different parts of the country. It’s been a great thing to be involved in.”

- You can see Jason Barratt and Lee Maddock in action, and have a go at Drilling & Tapping yourself, by coming along to the Institute of Water’s event at Canwick Treatment Works near Lincoln on Nov 17th. Event details: www.instituteofwater.org.uk/events or contact Lucy Archer at lucy@instituteofwater.org.uk or 0191 422 0088.

- The next Drilling & Tapping competition will take place at Utility Week Live in Birmingham on May 22-23.
Info: www.utilityweeklive.co.uk

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