Ross believes the best designs are often simple. So when a large electric company asked for a solution to improve access to its underground utility vaults, Ross knew just how to approach the project.
At the time, vault access was accomplished through a standard hinged hatch incorporated into the vault’s roof assembly. The roof assembly also included a structural frame and series of grating panels that spanned the width of the vault. While the hinged hatch provided workers with adequate access for routine maintenance, it was not large enough to handle equipment replacement or other types of major service. This size restriction forced workers to disassemble the grating panels from below, which was time consuming.
In keeping with Ross’ simple design philosophy, company engineers modified the roof assembly design by eliminating the hinged hatch and providing a method for workers to easily remove the grating panels from the street without compromising security. The solution involved a low-cost counterweighted locking mechanism that attaches to each grating panel and latches onto the structural frame with a large hook. The force of the counterweight ensures the hook remains engaged with the frame at all times to prevent unauthorized removal. To access the vault, workers simply release the locking mechanism with a special tool and remove the grating from above.
In the end, Ross’ design was successful in providing workers with unimpeded access to accomplish their work. And because the locking device is hidden from view, the threat of tampering is diminished.