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