Friday, August 17, 2012

Fluid Beaver and process safety

For some reason I always had a bit of fear for things under high pressure. I don't know if it was a boiler room that we had to walk through when in elementary school to get from one side of the school to the gym or what (that's another story). A little fear can be a good thing. It's saved my life more than once as you will see. Something about high pressure things and the possibility of eminent danger or instant death.

I was working with hydraulic fluids at one of the area Boeing plants. This type of chemical will burn your hands and other body parts. It was my job to check for leaks in a maze of pipes, hoses and connections throughout the plant. If we found a leaking pipe we were to clean up any spills and report the problem to maintenance. Some of the hoses used to fill the aircraft before they are sent on their way were neatly located in a small compartment, a shallow trench actually, in the factory floor covered with a steel cover plate. One day I noticed quit a bit of fluid at the end near the connection. I pulled the soaked absorbent pads, cleaned up the excess and placed fresh pads under the connection. Knowing that sometimes when an aircraft is moved residual fluids are sometimes left in the trench after unhooking the lines. These lines by the way are under 3600 lbs psi of pressure and the size of a fire hose. I figured I'd check it again after lunch just to make sure that was the case. After lunch the trench was again filled with hydraulic fluid. I called maintenance. To my surprise they came right away. Not a common occurrence for a place the locals call the Lazy B. They started dismantling the connection and took out some o rings. But there was a problem. They didn't have the exact o rings to replace the old ones. They had a similar one but not an exact same number on the part even though they looked exactly the same. I took notice as several of the engineers were slowly stepping back from the connection as they pressurized the line. They told me that if it were to fail the end cap would fly off like a cannon ball at about the same velocity.

All was completed and the part worked but this is not the end of the story. True I was always careful never to get any body part between me and the end cap, but one worker doing my job at another plant was not so lucky. In the process of taking the hose and connection out of the trench he had his head directly over the end cap. The o ring failed at that exact moment and it took his head clean off.

And now we have another death in Colorado from a gas line burst. I don't think I'd care to have their job. Judging the pressure of gas wells are quit unpredictable.
gas well burst kills one - injures three

Bank fails later as usual
Parking lot index at 10


S.W. Anderson said...

Good that you're careful on the job, Demeur. I often marveled at the safety-consciousness taught and practiced by the Air Force during my time in service. Had that O-ring problem occurred at an AF base, I'm sure the wrong one would not have been knowingly substituted.

Just for one example, when there's a fuel spill on or near the flight line, the area is cordoned off immediately and the operations officer is notified. A fire truck is dispatched to stand by while the spill is thoroughly cleaned up. It doesn't matter if it's a half gallon or 25 gallons; it's handled the same way.

Likewise, if an aircraft has a warning light come on, the pilot declares an emergency and the plane lands at the nearest base or, in a pinch, airport. Usually the problem is minor or a false alarm. Even so, they will bring the bird down ASAP, just in case. That can interfere with missions and timetables, and costs extra, but they do it because experience has taught them it pays to err on the side of safety.

BBC said...

What I thought was dangerous was being around my brother and guns.

Mostly empty gas tanks have screwed up a lot of guys also.

Randal Graves said...

Don't tell the FOP, but your job is far more dangerous. Though someday you'll grow up and earn real money like a real worker such as a hedge fund manager.

SWA, the replacement o-ring would have cost 25k. Heh.

BBC said...

Hey, ya going to Hempfest?

Demeur said...

As many leaks as I've cleaned up over the years I'm surprised it doesn't happen more often.

Well just give your brother a six pack or two tell him to get in his pick up truck and go hunting. Problem solved.

Couldn't do that Randal I have principles you know.

And no no no no I don't smoke it no more... In my profession random drug tests will do that to ya.

BBC said...

Who cares if you don't smoke it anymore, you go to Hempfest to enjoy the crazy chicks.

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