In a packed and highly-informative edition of the Pipeliners Podcast, host Russel Treat welcomes fellow podcasters Mark LaCour and Patrick Pistor to discuss the latest oil & gas and pipeline safety trends.
In this episode, you will learn about the importance of culture in an organization, how companies are focusing more on safety to achieve zero incidents, how training is changing to help a younger workforce get up-to-speed on best practices, the future of pipeline safety technology, and more important topics for pipeliners.
Pipeline Safety Trends: Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms
- Mark LaCour is the editor-in-chief of the Oil & Gas Global Network (OGGN) and co-host of the Oil & Gas This Week podcast and Oil & Gas HSE podcast. Connect with Mark on LinkedIn.
- Patrick Pistor is the managing director of Lean Oilfield and co-host of the Oil & Gas HSE podcast. Connect with Patrick on LinkedIn.
- HSE refers to the focus on Health, Safety, and Environment issues in the area of pipeline safety and integrity management.
- Jack Hinton is the VP of HSE for Baker Hughes. Mr. Hinton is known for his strategic insights into how to achieve efficient and effective change in HSE management.
- Read Mr. Hinton’s technical report, “Getting to Zero and Beyond,” presented by the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE).
- PPE (personal protective equipment) ensures the safety of an individual working in the field or at a site. PPE is especially critical when working in dangerous or hazardous work conditions.
- JSA (Job Safety Analysis) is a strategic planning tool to help reduce incidents and accidents in the field. The JSA also helps investigators find the source of near-misses and accidents.
- RealWear built industrial headware devices that allow users to control activity in an artificial reality (AR) environment. The RealWear technology allows for remote mentoring, document navigation, industrial IoT visualization, and enhanced digital workflow.
Pipeline Safety Trends: Full Episode Transcript
Russel Treat: Welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast, episode 38.
Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations.
Now, your host, Russel Treat.
Russel: We appreciate you taking the time to listen to the Pipeliners Podcast.
To show that appreciation, we are giving a customized YETI tumbler to one listener each episode. This week, our winner is Dave Norton with Hawk Consultants. Congratulations, Dave. You finally get the YETI. To learn how you can get this signature prize pack, stick around till the end of the episode.
This week, we’re very fortunate. This is a new thing for the Pipeliners Podcast. We have two guests instead of one. In addition to that, these two guests are also podcasters in their own right.
We have with us this week Mark LaCour, the host of both the Oil and Gas This Week podcast and the Oil and Gas HSE podcast, and Patrick Pistor, who’s also the co-host of the Oil and Gas HSE podcast.
We’re going to talk about safety. Mark and Patrick, welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast. This is a first for us. We’ve got other podcasters coming on the show. So very glad to have you.
Mark LaCour: So awesome to be here.
Patrick Pistor: Thanks for having us, Russel.
Russel: Why don’t you guys give the listeners just a little bit about your background, maybe what you all are doing in the area of safety, because that’s what we’re here to talk about, and how you found your passion for that? Mark, I’ll ask you to go first.
Mark: We got involved in podcasts about four years ago. I, quite honestly, Russel, thought it was a bad idea. Obviously, I was wrong.
In the process of growing our oil and gas pipeline business, Patrick and I had met. We had been approached by a company, a big company, to start a HSE podcast. Patrick and I just kind of jumped into it.
I don’t have the safety HSE background that Patrick has, but since I’ve been in the oil and gas industry for over 20 years, of course I have a whole bunch of HSE real-world experience.
The journey’s been fantastic. This is how you and I met. We’re just looking forward to blowing this thing up and making the oil and gas industry come back to being the premier industry of the planet. We catch too much negative public perception.
Our mission as a group of podcasters is to help tell the real story of our industry so that people understand what we’re really about.
Russel: I think that’s certainly one part of the mission. Certainly, we’ve done some episodes on that subject exactly. I think the other thing, though, is to just help people learn. This is a broad industry. There’s a lot of technology. There’s a lot of knowledge that needs to be captured and understood.
Mark: Not just knowledge around technical stuff. I mean stuff that you and I and probably all your listeners think is just common sense but most of the world doesn’t understand.
I’ve had people reach out to me and go, “Mr. LaCour, I heard what you said, that my cell phone wouldn’t exist without the plastics made from oil and gas. I thought you were wrong, so I went and did the research. Oh my God, you were right.”
Mark: Even stuff like that, I think it’s our mission to get it out there. Without hydrocarbons, without oil and gas, almost everything that makes our modern world possible simply wouldn’t exist.
Russel: That’s right. I think people don’t really understand what we do and why it’s important. Patrick, maybe a little bit about your background and how you got interested in safety and involved with Mark doing podcasting.
Patrick: My journey was a little bit different than Mark’s. I’m from operations. Primarily worked in Africa, Black Sea, Australia. It’s been in operations, process improvement, project management, HSE, sales and marketing. Kind of run the gamut of jobs in the deepwater drilling industry.
Like Mark said, we were approached by a company to start up the Oil and Gas HSE Podcast geared at sharing information. I’ve always had a problem with the way that our industry talks about sharing information. We don’t really close the loop.
We’re very good at sharing upfront information when something happens, when there’s an incident. It’s coming back around and talking about the root cause analysis, the mitigations that were put in place.
Mark had a great example. He talks about the broader this is what the industry is doing. I like to get down into the weeds — let’s figure out how we can make the industry safer because this happened, which was caused by this. Mitigations were put in place. Let’s never let that happen again.
Russel: That’s really interesting. What do you guys think is the most important aspect of a safety program? If I’m starting a new pipeline company and I’m looking at what I’m going to try to build as a safety program, where would you counsel somebody to start?
Mark: Man, the first thing I’d go to is culture. If you don’t have the right culture in place, I don’t care how many rules and tools and process you put in place. It’s not going to be adopted. You’re going to struggle.
Patrick and I have seen small companies, medium-size companies, and very large companies struggle with that. Then they get the right leadership in place so they can then develop the right culture, and it’s a game-changer.
Russel: What does that culture look like?
Mark: It’s transparent. It’s open. It’s not top down. It’s bottom up.
Some of the best leaders out there in HSE world…We had Jack Hinton on from Baker Hughes. I could not believe he was transparent enough to talk about — when he joined the organization — their safety record had gotten so bad here and in Europe that there were large companies that didn’t work with them anymore. He was that transparent about it.
They had to turn that around. The way they turned that around, at the very top, they go, “Let’s look at making a day where we have no incidents.” There’s a term for it they use internally, Patrick. You remember what it was called? A zero incident day? I can’t remember the term. The perfect HSE day!
Patrick: Perfect day, that’s it.
Mark: Perfect day. The executive team over there said, “What if we never have a perfect day? Are we going to put this out in front of all our global employees and then fail?” Jack Hinton said, “Yes.”
What’s so amazing, they have now moved the needle. I may get this number wrong, but I think last year, they had 261 days of the perfect day globally, where not one single person got hurt, not one incident to the environment, nothing, all because they changed the culture of the company.
Patrick: Culture’s a hard thing to nail down. We do talk about culture a lot. I define them more specifically as getting that adoption from the front end. Like Mark said, it’s got to be bottom up, not top down.
Changing the culture at that front end level is a difficult thing to do in the oil and gas industry because we’re very results driven. The ones that get the promotions, whether it’s offshore in pipelines or anything else, are usually the ones that are thought of as the guys that put out.
Historically, they have been the risk-takers. When you’ve got MPT, and somebody’s willing to cut some corners to get us out of that hardship, they were the ones historically that got a pat on the back and promoted. We have to change that culture on the front end to show that…
Mark and I had a great podcast episode entirely about marketing safety, about convincing those front line guys that the person that’s taking those risks is putting the entire operation at risk. They’re not being the go-getter. They’re being the risk-taker. They’re being the lazy one that didn’t want to follow the policies and procedures.
To follow that up, management has to get involved because I’ve seen too many safety programs fail because the bottom was all on-board — let’s do this, let’s follow the right procedures, let’s do after-action reviews. Management didn’t follow up or they said, “That’s six months away from being reviewed. We’ll get to it when we get to it.”
That bad attitude, poor culture from the top can destroy the motivation at the bottom. It has to be driven bottom up, but it has to be supported from the top.
Mark: Good point, Patrick. Not supported, but also believed in at the top. How many pictures have all of us seen in magazines or videos of some executive of an oil & gas company is somewhere and he doesn’t have PPE on? That’s just wrong.
We actually today had…One of my people’s out in some wells that they own in Oklahoma. He posted a picture in social media. He’s out there with a pair of gloves and boots. I go, “Dude, no. Where’s your PPE? You have obligation to our industry, to the people that work here, that even though you’re one of our podcasters, you still need to make sure that you have the right equipment on.”
The same way with big companies. I don’t care if it’s your CEO. Somebody tell him you need eyes, ears, hardhat, whatever. The cool thing, though, is I’m starting to see that change. I don’t know, Patrick, if you’ve seen that. The last couple of trade magazines that I’ve seen where they had executives at some job site, they actually were dressed completely in the right PPE.
Patrick: It’s clean PPE, but it’s the right PPE.
Mark: That’s true. It is.
Russel: That’s difference between the automation guys and the guys with the wrenches. The automation guys, their PPE is clean. Not always.
Patrick: If their boots are worn out in the heel instead of the toe, then you know that they’re management.
Russel: [laughs] That’s awesome! I’ve never heard that before. I think there’s a cartoon that should be done about that. That just paints a really pretty picture.
Mark: Patrick likes to make fun of me. On our show, we give away these Red Wing Offshore bags. Of course, Patrick and I each have one. Mine’s never been offshore. Mine’s clean. Patrick’s has been offshore. He makes fun of me all the time that my bag’s clean.
Russel: Just for the record, I’ve got onto the Oil and Gas HSE site, I have registered to win one of those cool bags. We do a similar thing here. We give away a branded YETI. Oh, man, it was so funny. I was in a meeting this last week. I had a guy. He was eagle-eying my YETI. “Dude, are you going to get one like everybody else gets one? You got to listen to an episode. You got to register to win. It’s real simple.” I even make my family do that.
Mark: It’s funny how that happens. The bags that we give away have become a cult item. People fight over them and people offer us cash for them. Of course, we don’t do it because it’s not ethical.
It is funny how something that you almost could go buy yourself somewhere else, if it’s part of a podcast giveaway and it’s branded a certain way, all of a sudden, becomes highly desirable.
Russel: It’s the coolness factor.
Mark: Yeah, and they are great bags, I’m not going to lie, they are really great bags.
Russel: You’re talking about culture. I think that’s a big thing. That comes up a lot in pipeline safety. When you read the accident investigations that the NTSB does after there’s some kind of pipeline incident, it’s never one thing that breaks down. It’s generally a whole set of things.
There’s always an element of culture, there’s always an element of communications, there’s always an element of a disconnect between the policy and the procedure and what we say we’re going to do and what’s actually occurring and really understanding the impact, the outcome that you’re setting up by what you’re putting in place.
I think you’re right, I think culture’s a big deal. It’s a hard thing to get right. You know it when it’s right, you can actually watch an organization, you can see when it’s right, you can see when it’s wrong.
Mark: That’s a good point, Russel. Another thing, even inside the same company, you’ll have one rig or one crew that adopts that culture, believes in it at a different rate than another rig or crew, so even within the same companies, you’ll see crews and rigs have different safety records. I shouldn’t even say safety, HSE records.
It’s one of those things where, I don’t think we ever have to stop working on it.
Russel: Oh, yeah.
Mark: I will tell you an interesting statistic that just warms my heart. In 2016, here and in Europe, it was actually safer to work in the oil and gas industry than it was to be a realtor. I mean, that’s how far we’ve moved the needle. I think that’s incredible.
Russel: I think one of the big reasons for that is that we as an industry are getting okay with setting goals that are unattainable.
Mark: And believing that zero incidents are real, not saying that we believe it, but really believing it, saying that it’s attainable. When I got in this industry, you judged an offshore guy’s maturity in the industry by how many fingers he was missing. Now that doesn’t happen anymore. I think that’s incredible.
Russel: The other thing is, we’re getting more comfortable with setting a standard that’s really high. It just is, compared to where we were.
I have a big belief — I talk about this in the pipeline control center — in the perfect HMI, you see a situation become abnormal before you get an alarm, and in the perfect alarm system, you get one and only one alarm for every abnormal condition. Both of those are very hard to attain, but they’re the right thing to strive for.
We’re getting more comfortable managing our businesses to a standard and creating a culture around managing to that high standard.
It’s like, every year, if you’re a pro football player, what you’re going, “I want to win the Super Bowl.” Only one person wins the Super Bowl. But in the striving that everybody does to win, everybody gets better, the game gets better.
Mark: Yeah, agree 110 percent.
Patrick: I try and relate it back: if somebody says that a zero incident day, week, year, month is unattainable, I try and make it a little more relatable to them, that if you’re a manager, how many people can you supervise and make sure they don’t get hurt?
Can you supervise one person and make sure that person doesn’t do anything wrong, doesn’t get hurt? Yes, of course, I can supervise one person. Can you do it with two? Can you do it with three, four, five? Can you do it with two crews? At what point do you personally think it becomes uncontrollable and you’re going to have an incident?
If you’re having trouble grasping a zero incident, that’s where your focus should be, wherever you think your management skills or your company’s structure can’t manage that, start the focus there. Because one less person, one less operation, one less rig, one less mile of pipe, you’ve committed that, yes, you can keep that many people safe.
All right, what does it take to get that one next?
Russel: Another way to flip that around is you’ve got so many people working for you, what level injury are you okay with? It’s like, well, none. Right? Any answer other than that’s just wrong.
Patrick: Right, yeah.
Russel: Historically, we haven’t thought that way, but I do think that’s changing. When you have a safety program, where do you think, other than culture, it’s most likely to break down?
Mark: I’ll let you take this one first, Patrick.
Patrick: I had kind of two thoughts behind that. You discussed one of them, that it can be a slow burn. You start letting things go, slip, you don’t clean up your workstation, which leads to not filling out the permit, which leads to not doing…
In my experience, it’s one of two things. It’s either that slow burn where things just slowly start to become unmanageable, you either don’t have the time, the resources to do what needs to get done. Then, eventually, an incident will occur.
On the flip side, when it happens rapidly, it’s culture at the top, and you have management at the top level or the mid manager level or the supervisory level that will start going around their own company policies and procedures. If a manager’s doing it, then the crews see that that’s an acceptable behavior, so they’re going to start going around things.
Those are more like wildfire. That’s something that’s going to catch right away. If management’s going around their own policies and procedures, you’re going to have a crew that’s just going to…Your processes are going to go out of control.
Or, again, you have that slow burn where you just stop…Think of it at your house. Your garage used to be completely clean when you moved in, but you slowly start adding things, you stopped cleaning up, and eventually, it became a rat’s nest.
Those are the two things that I see, it’s either a slow burn or management’s blatant disregard for their own policies and procedures.
Russel: Yeah, I guess that could be at any level of management, too. Right?
Russel: Doesn’t have to be all the way from the top. It could be one place in the hierarchy, that one area where a manager is circumventing things. That creates a big enough deviation from the norm that it creates a real high-level risk.
Patrick: Yeah, and that’s why I stair-stepped it down. Whether it’s management at the upper level, mid-managers, or that supervisory front end level, you’re exactly right, any one of those levels can cause that, and then it just starts to spread.
Mark: Yeah, and so those are two places I see it as well. Another couple of places I see where things break down is where people that aren’t in the field start creating safety protocol or bringing on new technology, new tools. They’re not in the field.
Back in the office, for whatever reason, it makes a lot of sense, but when some guy’s got a wrench in his hand and he has to stop and fill out another piece of paper or go down another checklist, at some point, he’s going to pencil whip it. Right? He’s got a job to do.
There’s a balance there. I think if the people that wrote safety processes, that bought safety tools, would actually spend more time in the field or get the field involved more, you could reach that balance between being able to capture that information and at the same time not put too much workload on the people actually trying to get stuff done.
Then, the one that’s very subtle, Patrick kind of touched on this, is, if a guy gets his finger pinched, it used to be everybody’s going to look at him and go, “He wasn’t wearing his gloves.” Not that long ago, he would have just been let go, because he wasn’t wearing his gloves.
Why was he not wearing his gloves? I doubt that was the first time. Right? I think there sometimes is a tendency for managers or front line people to let stuff slip if they’re doing a good job, if the job is on time and on budget.
What you have to believe in your heart is that a safe job is a good job. A safe job is an efficient job. A safe job is good for the business. If you don’t believe that, you’re going to have things like this break down. Then the program starts breaking down.
Russel: Safety and predictability, safety and operating outcome, they’re not exactly the same thing, but they’re first cousins.
Mark: They are absolutely first cousins. Because of our show, we’ve talked to a lot of leaders in the oil and gas industry who believe that. It wasn’t that way years ago, but it’s that way now. Now, is it 100 percent in our industry? No. Are we trending in the right direction? Absolutely.
Russel: I was recently at the AGA Operations Conference in the Gas Control Committee. We were talking about the need to do training based on real-world scenarios, things that actually happen.
The fact that there’s so few…In a single organization, there’s really pretty few even near misses at that level. You tend to take them and mind for them and use them as opportunities to try and look and see what deeper things might be occurring.
We were talking about what would be the possibility of the industry sharing amongst itself near misses? Now, there’s difficulties with that. The idea that if I get a finger pinch, how hard do I look at a finger pinch to determine what’s the root cause of a finger pinch, beyond I wasn’t wearing my gloves?
Mark: It could be a million things, right? It could have been this guy, nobody has made him wear his gloves for years. It could have been he had a fight with his wife. It could have been he worked a 15-hour shift beforehand.
It could be that they had a piece of equipment that wasn’t in the JSA, that was new. It’s a million and one things. You can’t stop with that root cause at the person. You have to keep following back. Patrick’s actually really, really good at thinking that sort of stuff through.
Russel: It’s never about the person.
Patrick: No. There’s a philosophy. It’s the seven causal factors of human error. It goes into exactly what Mark was touching on, that you have causes for bad behavior. Human error may be the cause, but it could be training. It could be distraction. It could be any number of different things. They limited it to seven.
I’ve really gotten on-board with that philosophy to really try and understand…somebody messed up. It is human error, but don’t stop there. You have to go deeper. You have to find out, is it something that’s systemic? Is everybody at this level not trained in their jobs? Can we fix that problem? Is it something else?
Russel: I also think that for the people who are more experienced around a particular kind of operation, they develop a gut feel. They can feel it when something’s about to go wrong. I’ve certainly experienced that myself. In those situations where I didn’t trust my gut, I came to regret it.
Patrick: That’s where the industry is changing, because we are now stopping the job. If you have a gut feel, in the past, you were told to, “Shut up. We’re going to keep operating.” If you get by, you get by.
Now, people are being rewarded for stopping the job. “I don’t know what’s wrong. Something doesn’t look and feel right. Let’s just stop the job. Have a think about it, or maybe explain to me the operation, because it doesn’t look good.”
Exactly what you said, those gut feels often turn into incidents. If you would have just acted on that gut feel without that fear of reprisal, whether it’s being reprimanded by your supervisor or just being ostracized [laughs] by your peers, there’s still that barrier to want to speak up.
Russel: There’s an idea in control systems around the idea of weak signals. A weak signal is something that doesn’t look right, but you don’t know if it means anything or not, versus something that’s clearly an abnormal operating condition or clearly outside of where it ought to be.
The idea is that part of the rigor you can use to improve is actively go through everything and look for those weak signals. I think that’s some place we might end up moving in safety programs.
Safety inspectors are not necessarily going to be out there to see if you’re following policy, as much as they’re going to be looking to see what’s going on, and what might be a weak signal of something that might be a miss, where we need to modify the program.
Patrick: Russel, we actually just had an incident investigation company on. The episode hasn’t aired. They were talking about those weak signals.
I’m a big proponent of…I’m a Six Sigma Black Belt. I want to get in there and start doing these investigations before incidents happen. Not do a knee jerk incident investigation, but go out there and treat it as a process improvement, a continuous process improvement.
You’re going after, first, the big jobs, the high-profile ones. Really going through every single procedure that you have and root cause analysis…What could go wrong? What has gone wrong? How can we continually improve this?
I don’t think the industry is quite there yet. We obviously do an incident investigation when something happens. A few companies are following that Lean Six Sigma methodology, where they’re going out and looking for areas to improve before there’s an incident. I don’t think it’s really caught on as a standard in the industry yet.
Russel: No, I don’t think it has, either, but I do think we’re moving in that direction. That leads to another question I wanted to ask specifically. That is, what do you guys see as the future of safety and safety technology in our business?
Mark: One of the things I see is big data. We talked earlier about Jack Hinton of Baker Hughes. He’s a co-author on a paper called “Getting to Zero and Beyond” with SPE.
They have set up a system where operators can share not just the incident but the root cause and the corrective actions that went into that in a way that protects them from a legal point of view. Now, the operators feel safe in sharing stuff even with their competitors, because it makes everybody safer.
Part of that, you talked earlier about that gut feeling. That gut feeling is really not a gut feeling. It’s your subconscious that has seen enough visual or audial clues, and matched that over your history. It knows what the possible outcome of that is.
Let me give you a perfect example. We all drive a lot. How many times have you been going somewhere, and you see a car in front of you and you can tell they’re going to change lanes? Now, how do you know they’re going to change lanes? They didn’t turn on their signal.
What it was, your subconscious saw their head turn. You saw them not check the mirror. You saw a slight movement on the steering wheel. That’s all data inputs that you’re consciously unaware of. They’re data inputs. As a safety-focused industry like the oil and gas industry is, we’re starting to use big data to capture all that stuff.
We ran across a real interesting big data project. It was a refinery. They were looking for something else. They were crunching a whole bunch of data points, not looking for HSE metrics at all. They happened to notice that one subcontractor, every time there’s a turnaround, had a much lower burn incidence than the other contractors doing the same work at the same refinery.
As part of crunching all these data, they stumbled across that the safety vests that the fire watchers were wearing were a different color. Something that insignificant, with hundreds and hundreds of contractors over years and years and years, no person would have ever figured out.
By using big data analytics, the machine was able to pinpoint that. They went out back and validated it. Now, they changed the color of everybody’s vest and improved the burn incidence for everybody at the refinery. Stuff like that, I think, is where we’re going as an HSE focused industry.
Patrick: I would agree with Mark. To follow up, I would say, just in the last couple of years, so much technology has come out to… Russel, in the pipeline industry, the automation to get your hands-off equipment, to automate the process, to use that data to figure out how to more efficiently operate, which in turn, leads to safer operations.
Apart from the human element that we talked about throughout this entire episode, that new technology — getting hands-off equipment, capturing data, making the paper process that was time-consuming a lot easier — like Mark said earlier, you can get those operations and safety professionals out on deck, doing their job, keeping people safe…
It’s a lot of things. I don’t see it as just one improvement operating in isolation. Everything is starting to come together. People are more accepting of these new technologies and ways of doing business.
The old school mindset is saying, “It’s a little too touchy feely,” or, “Nothing can replace my gut feel.” It’s just another tool in the toolbox to help these guys do the job safe every time when they go out.
Russel: I have a little bit different perspective on this. I think what we’re going to see is many of the mundane routine tasks are going to get eliminated. We’ve already seen that happen.
Shoot, 20 years ago, when I was getting started in the business, there were still a lot of people running around the trucks with clipboards. That’s pretty much gone in our industry. There’s still a lot of things we do that are routine and mundane.
To the extent we can get the routine and the mundane out and focus more on the complex and analytical, we will see safety improve more because of the way you approach the work. You just naturally think about it more.
One of the challenges in any kind of safety program is the routine and the mundane. Gravity takes you some place. Gravity takes you to a place where you begin to ignore that which is important. I do something 100 times. Nothing ever happens. I just naturally start not paying attention to the details. I have to have systems or processes that work against that.
To the extent I can automate those things that I have to do repetitively, I think that in itself is going to improve. Not just because I’m automating the mundane tasks, but because the nature of the work is going to become analytical. It’s going to become more about how I think about the work than, “What am I doing to do the work?”
Mark: To carry that a step further, I think in our lifetime, somebody in the field will be working on something, they’ll go to stick a wrench on a valve, and Siri, out of their pocket, would go, “No, that’s the wrong valve. Don’t touch that.” We’re really not that far away from that.
That opens up a whole can of wonderful stuff. Now, you can hire people that are less experienced. They can work just as safely.
You talk about the future. One of the things I have my eye on that I’m a little, I’m not going to say worried, but just aware of is, as an industry — no matter if it’s upstream, midstream like this show, downstream, service companies — we have a new, young workforce coming on board that didn’t start out in the field 20 years ago.
A lot of stuff that keeps us safe is in people’s heads. A good example is if you get under a tower and you hear “clang, clang, clang, clang, clang,” the people that know what’s going on will run. The newbies look up, because somebody dropped a wrench and it’s clanking down. It’s just little things like that.
Technologies can help us eliminate that knowledge gap or almost eliminate that knowledge gap, so our new, younger workers can work just as safe as the guy who has been doing it for a while.
Russel: It’s interesting. I’m on the tail end of the baby boom generation. All the kids that I grew up with in the neighborhood, what we did on the weekend was we pulled our cars apart and put them back together. Almost everybody I knew rebuilt a car. Nobody rebuilds a car anymore.
Mark: Nobody knows what a torque wrench is anymore.
Mark: Or a drill.
Russel: I worked on cars before you needed a computer to work on cars. I also was a weird guy because I did that. Then I also build computers on my kitchen table. I’m a little weird because I was in both of those realities. The guys coming up are really comfortable with technology. They’re not as comfortable with the mechanical aspects of what we do.
Mark: Agreed 110 percent.
Russel: I think there’s going to be a lot that’s going to happen in the realm of training, so that we can pass the experience along and give people the real-world experience of doing the work mechanically, before they have to go out and do the work mechanically.
People will be able to see things going wrong through the use of augmented reality and virtual reality and other kinds of training technologies. They’ll be able to see and experience things going wrong without having to actually have something go wrong.
Mark: That world’s already here.
Your listeners can check out a company called RealWear. They make the only and first intrinsically safe wearable. They’re heavily focused on oil and gas. Literally, one of their business models is you take the guys that have retired, that have all this information in their head. They now can supervise 20 guys in the field, all over the world, in real time.
Like you said, as you develop the augmented reality which will then overlay the big red “No” over that valve you’re not supposed to touch, how cool is that?
The flip side of that is if you keep thinking that through, does that mean somewhere down the road, we are so dependent on the technology that we struggle to think critically in an emergency situation. That’s another whole topic for another whole podcast.
Patrick: That’s a very good point. Russel, like you said, you were tearing down and rebuilding cars but also building computers on your kitchen table.
While a lot of the workers coming out now are comfortable using technology, my fear is that the generation that’s coming into the workforce will be comfortable using technology, but that’s all they’re going to be, is users.
It’s being able to understand what process, what logic went into building that sequence that is causing the valve to actuate and fluid to flow through the pipe, why is that happening. That’s the gap that needs to get closed between the users of the technology and understanding how it actually is affecting your processes.
Russel: You’re exactly right. I agree with everything you guys are saying.
Listen, we’re kind of coming to the end here. This has been great. I want to say thank you, Mark and Patrick, for coming on the Pipeliners Podcast. It’s awesome to have other podcasters on the show. Definitely going to have to have you back and talk about some of these other subjects that we’re alluding to in this conversation.
Mark: We’re all family. There’s only a handful of us podcasters in oil and gas, so we’re all just family. Thank you for having us on.
Patrick: Thank you, Russel.
Russel: My pleasure. Mark, if somebody wanted to get in touch with you or learn more about the podcast and what you do, what would be the best way for them to do that?
Mark: You just go to the county jail and look for cell number two. No, I’m joking.
Mark: The best way to get in touch with me is on LinkedIn. You search for Mark LaCour. I’ll pop right up. The podcast that we’re talking about now, that Patrick and I are on, is OilAndGasHSE.com. Any place you find a podcast, all of our podcasts are available.
Russel: Patrick, same question. How would somebody best get in touch with you?
Patrick: LinkedIn is Patrick Pistor. There is maybe three of us out there, so you can find me pretty easily. Or you can go to LeanOilField.com/speaking. It’s got my full bio and everything about me. Go check out the podcast, OilAndGasHSE.com.
Russel: Great. We’ll put all this in the show notes and link it all up. For the listeners out there that’d like to know more, just go to the PipelinersPodcast.com website and look up the details.
Hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Pipeliners Podcast and our conversation with Mark and Patrick. Just a reminder. Before you go, you should register to win our customized Pipeliners Podcast YETI tumbler. Simply visit PipelinersPodcast.com/win to enter yourself in the drawing.
Russel: If you have ideas, questions, or topics that you would be interested in, please let us know on the Contact Us page at PipelinersPodcast.com, or reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Thanks again for listening. I’ll talk to you next week.
Transcription by CastingWords