As we know – engineering professionals often hugely underestimate their contribution and role in industry and society. Safety in the workplace especially when it comes to electricity is something we have to constantly keep our eye on and can continue to make a huge contribution.

Dear Colleagues

As we know – engineering professionals often hugely underestimate their contribution and role in industry and society. Safety in the workplace especially when it comes to electricity is something we have to constantly keep our eye on and can continue to make a huge contribution.

Engineering professionals should be proud
As engineers and technical people we are proud to make things happen and but it’s important that in this desire to produce an outcome, the technical solutions properly take into account:

  • The relevant technical and safety requirements of a statutory nature (the legal requirements, contained in Acts, Regulations and referenced technical standards/codes);
  • The possible need for additional measures to protect people and property (moral issues that arise because simple compliance with local laws may not deliver an adequately safe outcome for people and property – this is where issues such as good risk management and “good industry practice” come into play); and
  • The wider corporate responsibility and also the impact on corporate image (and thus shareholder value) should a major deficiency with the outcome become evident.  For example, the capacity and means for ensuring the ongoing safety of facilities in the long term need to be considered, where relevant.

An Energy Safety checklist
I believe these three issues need to be seen as part of the “energy safety checklist” that practitioners apply as part of their work, in their endeavour for continuous improvement, whether working on infrastructure (e.g. electricity or gas transmission lines, power stations etc) or industry installations (of mine sites, process plants or large buildings).

Massive Energy Safety failures
There have been some very newsworthy energy safety failures in recent times and two come to mind (besides the Gulf of Mexico rig explosion, of course).  Firstly during early June 2010 there was a substation explosion and fire in Dhaka, Bangladesh which resulted in the death of at least 117 people and many more injured people, as the substation was next to a building storing various flammable chemicals.  Secondly, during August 2010 it was announced that British Petroleum had agreed to pay a record OSH law fine of US$51m for failing to correct safety hazards at its Texas City oil refinery after an explosion killed 15 workers in 2005.  The latter failure to comply is now not only costing BP a huge amount of money, but is also seriously hurting the company’s image and credibility.  

Safety short cuts are expensive
It highlights that taking safety shortcuts to save some dollars doesn’t really save money in the long run.  It also highlights that engineers should not be afraid to make sure the right information goes “up the line” to CEOs and also the directors of company boards, since many now take pride in reporting corporate performance through a triple bottom line  – known as people, planet & profit.

Thanks to Al Koenig for this useful commentary.

In undertaking your day-to-day work, especially as far as safety is concerned, Howard Newton sagely observed: People forget how fast you did a job - but they remember how well you did it.

Yours in engineering learning

Steve

Mackay’s Musings – 28th June’16 #606
780, 293 readers – www.idc-online.com/blogs/stevemackay

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