on February 26th, 2009

Dear Colleagues

First of all, thanks for the enormous response to common sense tips on safe practice and commissioning. We have been working on putting this into booklet form and will release it in the next few days. It will include a few hundred great suggestions (and unfortunately a few very effective, but risqué suggestions that cannot be reproduced!). One particularly interesting point has drawn horrified responses already - understandably:
………and still are unsure and want to ensure that an LV bus or terminal is dead; do so by touching the part in question with the back of your fingers with the palm open and facing you……… If the part is live, the shock causes the fingers to curl and the arm to move towards the body (both are involuntary reflex actions), thus breaking the contact.

Roger, one of our more experienced engineers, remarked that perhaps this would have been acceptable in many countries 30 years ago, but definitely not today. Furthermore, as one reader commented, if this were practiced in his firm the individual involved would be sacked on the spot.

This illustrates an important point. We all work in a global engineering community. If you have someone new in your country, do not assume that he/she has the same ideas of safe practice and procedures as you do. Ensure that a thorough retraining program is undertaken to ensure the necessary engineering standards and procedures are learnt. Don’t assume standards are the same, ever - an American working to European standards may be quite surprised by the different standards being applied in many cases. I do not insinuate anything other than differences exist and there are often reasons for these differences; a lack of money and resources, varying access to training, historical reasons, and generally just differing engineering standards et al.

This lack of consistency can apply even when moving from firm to firm in the same town. If you are working in the petrochemical industry with hazardous areas and someone new arrives, say from a manufacturing background, ensure he/she is trained and tested for the new hazardous areas environment. Similarly, if someone moves from the LV environment to an HV one. It is often quite staggering to see the misunderstanding that exists when someone starts in a new job with completely different demands and requirements. And naturally if you go to a new country or firm and the opportunity arises to raise the quality of engineering standards, this must be grabbed. Do so with persistence and understanding. You will inevitably save lives and often money.

As the Talmud remarks about danger and safety: Never expose yourself unnecessarily to danger; a miracle may not save you...and if it does, it will be deducted from your share of luck or merit.

I look forward to releasing your great collection of common sense tips and comments shortly.

Yours in engineering learning

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