In our latest catch-up with plumbing apprentice Sebastian Sekene, we learn that it’s all go on new classroom block projects.
Stormwater pipes are thick, heavy and physically demanding to work with. Sebastian knows this only too well, having recently been working on the external drainage at four different classroom block projects around Auckland.
All are at the early build stage and Sebastian admits bouncing around between jobs can be a challenge, when all have their own set of plans to get familiar with. “You can’t go into autopilot, that’s for sure,” he says.
There’s plenty to do on the two-storey blocks, including internal PVC waste pipes and, later in the piece, bathrooms plus kitchen facilities for the teaching staff.
Heron Plumbing Contract Manager Tom Poole manages all the project scheduling, liaising with the project managers on each school site and sending Sebastian where needed
“I’m usually on a site for three days at a time,” says Sebastian. “I’m on my own for 90% of the time, which means I can go at my own pace. If I get overwhelmed by a task, I take five to chill out and mostly come up with a good solution. I always remember what my first boss used to say: ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’
“Sometimes I get tunnel vision and have to ask myself, ‘OK, what can I do differently?’” Health and safety on site is a key part of each project, and Tom always goes on site before work starts to establish the ‘triple S’ (site specific safety) plan, which Sebastian must read and sign up to
Then there’s the weekly toolbox talk by email or phone to discuss particular on-site hazards and how to minimise or work around them. In recent months, one of those hazards has been poor lighting due to the dark winter mornings. There’s also been working at height off a ladder plus the open trenches and diggers for the external drainage.
“Uneven surfaces are another, as the sites are all dirt at this stage,” says Sebastian. “The apprentice I was working with one day rolled her ankle just as I was in the site office talking with the manager about the plans. She was all good, but it was sore at the time.”
Sometimes there are other, more unexpected hazards. “Last week, I was doing some flood testing on PVC work I’d just finished on the first storey of one of the school blocks,” recalls Sebastian. “It was taking ages for the water to drain, so I thought I’d be a tidy Kiwi and go downstairs to clean up while I waited. I was packing up my gear when all the water flowed out of the pipe onto the exact spot I was standing. I was drenched—a great way to end the day!”
Sebastian Sekene is a 22-year-old Masterlink fourth-year plumbing, drainlaying and gasfitting apprentice, hosted by Heron Plumbing in Auckland. He currently works in the commercial division of the business.
This article first appeared in NZ Plumber magazine August-September 2023