Flaherty Suits Up and Goes Down the Manhole

By Kyle Finck

Features Editor Joe Flaherty ’15 became facilities services newest “dangler,” braving sub-zero morning temperatures to drop down into a manhole outside the Biomass plant on Jan. 8.

Flaherty has introduced Campus readers to the men and women “Behind the Vest” at Facilities Services who keep the College running. When Flaherty began reporting on the Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning (HVAC) at the College in December, Director of Facilities Services Mike Moser made him an offer he could not resist. Instead of just following the crew around, Moser offered to put Flaherty behind the vest and down a manhole.

To see what happens below the surface of the College, Flaherty had to complete Confined Space Training from Safety & Regulatory Comp. Manager Jeremiah LaCross.

“Right away during the training, you have to be trained on air monitoring. Jeremiah started reading me the possible dangers down there: carbon monoxide, all the sulfuric gases and other stuff that can kill you if you’re down there too long. That was one moment when I got a little bit worried, but obviously we weren’t going into one that was too dangerous,” Flaherty said.

Once he was certified, LaCross, Flaherty and HVAC team member Scott Barker proceeded out to a manhole a few steps outside the Biomass plant. Flaherty is one of more petite danglers the College has certified to go underground, and it took a half hour to fit him into the protective harness usually filled by Will Bickham, a hefty six-foot, 300 pound technician.

Above the manhole, Barker set up a large metal tripod, which hoisted Flaherty into the air and lowered him down the 15-foot hole. Barker was quick to remind Flaherty that this was no joke and that the harness would cut circulation to his legs in a matter of minutes if anything went south.

With a smile, a pair of oversized work gloves and a loosely-fitted metallic-yellow hardhat, Flaherty clanked down the manhole reminding us he was okay at every chance he could.

“It’s one thing to stand by and report as people fix the Biomass plant or prepare for a snowstorm, but it is another thing entirely to be the person who is going down under and experiencing what Facilities does,” Flaherty said. “It was special.”