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How the Flood Altered My View on Work Safety.
Zach shares his story about his experience driving in the flood that occurred in Houston, Texas last week. We discuss the importance of work safety and the obstacles to get people more engaged in safety practices.

This episode is sponsored by

Gibson Reports
Gibson Reports

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Episode Transcription

Welcome to the Erdos Miller new technology podcast. I'm David Erdos.

And I'm Zach Gaston. Today's episode is sponsored by Gibson Reports. Check them out at gibsonreports.com.

What are we talking about today Zach?

We're going to be talking about the very interesting topic of safety.

Wow. That is really exciting. I'm just pumped.

Yes. And if you have not already tuned out, I would like to share with you a personal story about my safety experience yesterday and the flood.

Ooh, sounds exciting.

Yes. Well, it gets better. This is the week where we had the flooding in the East side of Houston. And in Conroe yesterday, we actually had more of a flood downtown. And as I was leaving the office yesterday, a coworker approached me and let me know that her kids were trapped at the school that they were at. And they were down at a school for Houstonians. You probably know this area, it's by Bear Creek. So the infamous flood area. And she already let me know that it was flooded north of it, south of it and west of it. She drives a Tesla, so she asked if she can drive with me, in the truck, to go down there to get the kids.

Zach, how high is your truck lifted?

For those of you who don't know me, I've got a Super Duty with an 8" lift and 40" tires. So it sits about a foot higher than a stock F-250.

Yeah, it's big.

Yes. So surely, and this is probably what factored into my safety blunder, I thought I would not get flooded. So her and I jumped in the truck and we go down there and we keep hitting roads where people have already been flooded in. So there's cars, [crosstalk 00:01:56] the cars littered the road already abandoned. So there's nothing we can do about it. And then high water everywhere.

And so we keep turning off and since West, North and South were already blocked, we kept heading East, heading East, trying new turnoffs and we make it into this neighborhood. And the neighborhood has an entrance and an exit. And there's four stop signs in between the entrance and the exit. First stop sign, six to 12 inches of water, no big deal for the truck. We look ahead to stop sign number two and no water. So we make it up to the stop sign number two. Then, the water re-emerges at stop sign number three, you were going at like two foot of water.


And so I go ahead and start towards stop side number four, because I'm like, man, the exit is just right there. And all of a sudden the water is getting higher and higher.

So I rolled down my window, I'm looking out and it's getting up to the top of my tire, which, it's a 40 inch tire, so we're talking about three and a half foot of water. And I finally decide probably not a good choice to risk it. So we throw it in reverse, and we start following this truck full of kids who are jumping out of a truck and waiting through the water to try to gauge the depth. And eventually they kind of say, no, let's not proceed forward. And so I turned back around and we're going back towards the entrance. Well, you know, stop sign number two that had no water still has no water. So that's promising. However, there's about 15 cars stuck at stop sign number two. And it didn't occur to me, why are they all stacking up here? As it turns out, stop sign number one is now at this 36 inch watermark.

Wow. From a foot.

Yes. So in the three or four minutes we were inside this neighborhood, we have a two foot water level difference at the entrance of the neighborhood. And all of a sudden this big, bad truck that I'm sitting in is now just as susceptible as any one of these other cars and I'm going, wow. You know, if only I was not thinking, but just reacting instantly to some kind of safety phrase. We have safety phrases of like stop, look, and listen when you get to a railroad track. Right?

Yeah. Stop, drop, and roll.

Stop, drop, and roll with the fire. I couldn't think of the phrase for flooding.

Maybe turn around, don't drown-

Turn around. Don't drown.

-is a good idiom, phrase to go by.

That's right, and it didn't occur to me at the time to think of the phrase, and I got myself into a situation that for most vehicles, that would have been it, right. I would have been stuck and stranded. In fact, as I was going back towards stop sign number one, slowly, a car, not a lifted car, just a car, normal sedan, plows through, coming towards me. And then his car dies in the middle of the street because it's a three foot of water. So it was already rolling over the hood and it was bound to happen.

And then it does. And I'm kind of thinking-

Why would you do that?

Yeah. I'm already concerned about my truck, and then you've got this tiny car and it's flooded. But anyway, we make it out and we're able to rescue the kids eventually. I mean, it took two hours. The place is 10 minutes from our office. So there was a huge debacle, but we were very lucky to have made it out when so many people were stuck there. I mean, they just got trapped.

And so I think what would have helped me in that situation is instead of me just, Oh, you know, I've got a truck so I can do whatever I want, or I've got a hard hat, so I can go do this thing. If I had just had that phrase ingrained into memory and it wouldn't have been a thought, it would have been an instant reaction, it could have helped me not put myself in that situation. So I thought, Oh, you know, it's just like wearing steel toe boots. That doesn't mean you should just go drop stuff on your feet all the time. You still have to have those safety practices. Those things are meant to help you when you make a mistake. Just like when you probably heard at the beginning of this podcast that we're going to be talking about safety. I'm sure no one really jumped in there in their seats and went oh, wow.

This is going to be exciting.

Yeah, this is the one, I'm really glad this is that this Zach Gaston guy is substitute hosting. But you know,

Cause you know, Ken would never do an episode about safety.

Yeah. That's right. Safety. What's that? So, you know, basically I think for safety, the more we can make it about a reaction than a stop and think, Oh, what should I do in this situation?

Muscle memory.

Muscle memory. Yes, exactly.

Always put on safety glasses first, before you start working with tools or drilling.

That's right. Hard hat, steel, toe boots, you got your H2S monitor. Safety eyeglasses, gloves. Those things can help, but it's like a moment in time can make the difference between being nice and safe, and now you don't have a hand. Glove or no glove, you can still lose a hand. You put it in the wrong place and it's done.

Zach was just sharing with me this really cheesy video from the 1980s called Shake Hands with Danger. [crosstalk 00:07:01] Check it out on YouTube.

That's right, Shaking Hands with Danger. I believe Caterpillar put that together, back in the 1980s. So enjoy, for YouTube listeners, go ahead and pop that one in the queue after this one.

Yeah, you can meet three finger Joe.

They have a whole list of songs that go along with these videos, but they basically put people in scenarios that are pretty common when working with large equipment, and they've got nice catchy, unique music, that's overlaid and they go through various situations where people put themselves in to maybe cut a corner or save some time, or it's not that big of a deal.

One of the examples was a guy was going to about to go back and work on some earth moving equipment and he told the driver to just leave it on, but don't don't touch anything. Which is a terrible idea.

Yeah, exactly. I mean, it's like, of course he's not going to willingly touch anything, but Oh, his knee shifts or he's swatting a bee, and boom, he hits the control and it's only on for 0.5 seconds, but there goes that guy's hand, right? So how do we, as an industry, train people to have an instant reaction to a scenario like that without making it so dull, because I don't look forward to doing my OSHA training. I'm sorry, OSHA. It's important, and you have to have that type of training, right, but when someone says, Hey, you got to sit down for eight hours of defensive driving, I also don't jump for joy either right?

So, you know, I think those unique phrases really help people. Maybe there's some unique phrases already used in the industry for safety. None come to mind. Maybe, you know, some of our subscribers could shoot me an email, make a comment or something and tell me what those might be, but they've got to be something quick and easy that just, you see the situation and you stop drop and roll, or you stop, look, and listen. I don't know. I'm passionate about it because I had a near miss. So this is my safety moment podcast. David, have you ever had a situation like that?

Well, since I've mostly work with electronics, not having machinery [crosstalk 00:09:08] a little bit less risk there, but I have had a few capacitors blow up in my face. They didn't hit me in anything, but I was like, Hmm, maybe I should have been wearing safety glasses.

Safety glasses would have helped.

Doing this destructive test of some electronics. And then obviously in MWD, we work with lithium batteries, with the thionyl chloride, and that's extremely high energy density and very dangerous if handled improperly. If they're overheated, or if you over deplete them, they can explode like a stick of dynamite. And people, sadly, have died from battery explosions in this industry.

Yeah. I can't say it enough that batteries are probably the source of danger for the MWD guys. Like you kind of pointed out, small little boards, probably not going electrocute you. [crosstalk 00:10:03] The weight of a individual MWD tool probably won't hurt somebody. If you've already got your steel toes on, even if it drops on your foot, no big deal, but you've got batteries there. And if they're improperly handled or you're using it as a hammer or something like that, you're really going to cause a situation for not just you, but other people that might be abiding by safety practices in another room or somewhere around.

Yeah. I mean the barrel could explode and shoot through the wall and hit somebody in another room.

We should come up with a phrase for battery safety, like battery safety matteries.

I think that's a really good one. Zach. I think everybody's going to start saying that. It's just very important to whenever you're doing thermal testing, is there a battery in the system, make sure the battery doesn't get overheated or heated at all, preferably. Like you said, it's probably the most dangerous thing that we deal with when dealing with MWD tools.

I know for our guys, we have some various test stands where we've got swinging arms, where if you're not careful you could hit a bystander or something. And we have ovens where obviously you're baking things up to one 175 C or 200 C in some cases. But they have indicators on the ovens that show, okay, I'm on. Or you can feel the heat coming off the oven. Do I, 100% of the time put the back of my hand up and you know, do that? No, should I? Probably yes. But, we do have gloves and everything next to the assembly, so that even if it is still hot, the guy's protected.

So there's not a ton of safety precautions that we would take with MWD tools on the rig itself, as far as really MWD tools, other than maybe with EM tools. I was just thinking about that.

What about an EAM tool? Like you could shock yourself, or what?

Well, actually most of the EM tools don't output a high enough voltage to really hurt you. I think the bigger risk is that they might cause a spark or a short to something and create a spark there on the rig floor, and in the presence of explosive gases that could cause a fire or explosion.

Yeah, and that would be a big problem.

Big problem. And so I think most EM tools have a pressure based switch, safety switch, where they have to be down hole, and there has to be some certain amount of pressure on the mud column for them to start transmitting the EM signal.

So to make sure you're down hole or in a down hole environment?

And actually in fluid, relatively deep before you start turning on your transmitter and cause a potential spark. Because obviously if there's no oxygen in the well then you're safe to transmit.

Right, right. Okay. Well, I mean that's an example of electronics adding a layer of safety in, or using technology, it doesn't have to be electronics for that matter.

Yeah, and I think a lot of the modern systems will monitor battery voltage and make sure it doesn't get over depleted, because when the batteries get depleted too low, they can also cause them to be unstable. But I think there's a lot we can do with precautions in the system designs to make sure that all the electronics on the rig floor, all the cables, all the interfaces are intrinsically say four rated for class one, div two or whatever it may be for that specific location to make sure that you don't have sparks or electrical ignition of fires.

So if we solve a lot of the safety problems with technology, is there a scenario in which it could cause people to then over rely on technology solutions and rest on their laurels?

Absolutely. I mean, complacency, I think is a huge problem in everyday life. I mean, we get complacent all the time driving like, Oh, I've driven this road a hundred times. I'm just going to check my phone as I drive because I know this road. Then somebody pulls out in front of you and you hit the car or whatnot.

Yeah. I've noticed. So I have one car with like backup camera and one with no backup camera. And with the backup camera, you just kind of look down at your dash, don't even check your mirrors, right? You're just like, okay. You know, I'm sure the sensor will beep at me if I hit somebody.

Or get close.

Yeah, or even get close. Right. And then in the other car, I put it in reverse and I'm like, Oh wait. [crosstalk 00:14:13] So I've already noticed it with my own driving practices, even the lane changing, I don't know if you have a little light in your lane changing, it'll let you know when there's no car next to you and you want to blinker over. In the car without, I actually have to use my mirrors, which seems really inconvenient now when it used to seem like a normal thing. So I'm probably one of those individuals that is somewhat complacent.

Well, I think we all fall into that and that's kind of the, the double-edged sword of technology, adding all these safety features in cars, or oil field systems is that people start relying on only those safety features. And when that safety feature fails, which is bound to happen, then you're in trouble.

I guess that's some stuff to chew on for our viewers, is, how do we keep our guys not to get complacent? And if you happen to know any interesting, unique phrases that can help people remember some of the safety practices, way better than my battery one, please, maybe we can help educate and keep people engaged as far as safety.

Yeah, and I think that's one of the benefits of safety moments throughout the day or throughout the week, and just kind of remind and kind of brings it to the top of your mind, like yeah, safety is important, and refreshes your memory and keeps you thinking in that mindset of keeping safety first.

Yeah. One of the companies that we work with does a safety moment at the beginning of every single conference call. It doesn't matter if it's a 10 minute conference call, 30 minute, anything. They'll have a safety moment at the very beginning and it has to happen. I do kind of like stuff like that. It seems cheesy, sometimes no one really has anything to share, so they're really talking about some real nuts and bolts stuff. But you're right. I mean, maybe that's what it is. I mean, just over and over and over and repetition,

Constant repetition.

Right, until it becomes like riding a bike.

Well then you still have to keep it up. Even if it starts to become instinct, because if you stop, you'll get complacent. So yeah. All right. Well that's all the time we have for today. Thank you for listening. If you liked this episode or podcast, check us out on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, like and subscribe. Thanks, thanks guys.