Tough tools for a tough job

The BBC made a series a while back following three young Brits as they left their homes to pursue the world’s toughest jobs. These included Canadian Forestry, Cattle Ranching and Skyscraper Window Cleaning. There is no doubt these are a hard way to make a living but there's one more we would add to the list following a project we recently completed – being a UK Border Force officer.

It’s a tough job because of the environments they have to work in and the politically charged atmosphere that surrounds them. But it is also emotionally draining for reasons that we rarely see on the news pieces. Most of the officers have experienced finding vulnerable people hiding in the backs of trucks and other vehicles. The people they find are scared, confused, often in ill-health and sadly sometimes have not survived their arduous journey.

Regardless of your political views on the matter of immigration you will be able to empathise with the desire to find vulnerable people at risk of suffocation as quickly and safely as possible. This was the brief given to us through an InnovateUK funded competition, looking for ways to improve the equipment that was in use at the time.

Our successful application to the competition resulted in two rounds of funded development to design a tool, that could by-pass the seals on the doors of hard-sided trucks to allow the air inside to be sampled. By testing the levels of CO2 in the airflow, Border Force officers can decide within seconds whether they should take a look inside.

Our design process included regular visits to border crossings to observe and understand the challenges facing the officers. In addition to this, many hours were spent climbing in and out of trucks to understand how to by-pass the various rubber seals without damaging them. Opening up sealed trucks, that are keeping food at low temperatures, can result in huge volumes of fresh produce going to waste. So our solution was also going to reduce amount of lost produce for truck owners.

The result was a product called the “Sampling Blade” that is made from an all stainless-steel construction. It has several unique features that enable it to do its job in the harsh environments it is used in.

The imagination Factory manufactured the first batch of Sampling Blades for the UK Border Force earlier this year and they are in regular use in various locations.


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