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First of all … I hope 2012 is an excellent year for you.

It appears Thomas Kuhn developed the concept of paradigm shift in 1962 when he wrote “The Structure of Scientific Revolution”. Today, the term is used and often abused, but it appears to be a change of thinking from one way to another.

I recently had a mild paradigm shift. I say mild because it is not earth-shattering, and some of you will roll your eyes at my paradigm shift, but it is a paradigm shift nonetheless.

As part of my training courses, I often discuss valves. I introduce valves with hand gestures, and I am adamant the delegates use the correct hand. This is because most valves are right handed. A right handed valve is closed by turning the top of the hand wheel to the right (a clockwise motion). The term “righty-tighty lefty-loosy” applies to valves. By turning the top of the hand wheel to the right it become tight (the valve is shut off or closed). By turning the top of the hand wheel to the left it become loose (the valve is loose, therefore opened). When delegates use the incorrect hand, the demonstration does not work as well.

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I am finishing 8 trips in 9 weeks, and last time I wrote of my “interesting” experience with a hotel smoke alarm. It was my first experience with a smoke alarm in a hotel, and it was caused by a software error.
So imagine my surprise when it happened a second time in 3 weeks. The second time it was real. Not serious (trivial really), but real. The second incident was caused by a person that lit a candle in their room. Somehow, the candle ignited a piece of paper, and (to the surprise of the candle burning guest) that activated the smoke alarm. I had to evacuate my hotel room AGAIN. Unlike last time where I had shampoo in my eyes, this time I was fully dressed and working on my laptop. But it was raining (and not just raining – it was absolutely pouring).
When I travel I do make a note of the fire exits, but after the shampoo incident I thoroughly check them out. And I had no trouble evacuating. On the way down the evacuation siren stopped, but not in time to stop me from having to go outside into heavy rain.
At the ground level, the hotel staff advised all guests they could return to their rooms as the fire was extinguished. It was here that staff told me about “candle person”. And unlike last time, I was impressed with the response of the hotel staff.

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My work requires me to travel, and currently I am in the middle of a set of many trips (6 trips in 9 weeks, with 3 more potential trips likely to become reality, making 9 trips in 9 weeks). I do have the occasional traveller’s anecdote, and tips for making a journey comfortable and successful, but this experience was a first for me.

While I was in the shower of my hotel room, the building evacuation alarm activated. And yes, I had shampoo in my eyes when it happened. Please don’t ask why a bald guy had shampoo in his eyes, I just did.

My first reaction was to curse the inconvenience, but I did get out, dry myself (with shampoo residue still in my hair), get dressed enough to evaluate, grabbed my laptop (nothing else, and yes it was a safety issue), and proceeded to evacuate. My room was on the 9th floor, and when I reached the 5th floor, the evacuation horn stopped. Seeing that I was halfway down, and realising I did not have my room key with me, I continued down.

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A colleague described a very unusual situation in his project. A facility was undergoing an upgrade on the inlet of the facility. Nothing unusual about that, but what was unusual was as a result of the upgrade, 100% of the feed would flow through the new upgrade. And … while that statement by itself is not unusual, what was unusual was the transition. There would be a time when 100% of the feed HAD to flow through the new system, while it was being commissioned and before it had been handed over to operations.

Let me say that differently … an entire complex was forced to rely on an “incomplete” system to continue to operate. And I am not talking about partial capacity; I am talking about 100% of the feed having to go through an incomplete system before entering the rest of the complex. If the new system was not available, the rest of the complex would get no feed.

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Just as a point of clarification, I recently mentioned that one airline did not stock life rafts on their aircraft. I just got off a flight with that airline, and the flight crew informed me that their new aircraft are CURRENTLY not fitted with life rafts, but WILL be fitted in the next 12 months.

Therefore, this airline did not permanently compromise on extra safety, but temporarily compromised on extra safety.

Again, just a point of clarification

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The aviation industry here in Australia has been in the headlines recently, for all the wrong reasons. One airline was forced to ground its fleet because of safety violations. The other airlines were quick to say something like “we will never compromise on safety”.

Then there was a volcano in Chile that erupted, sending ash into the atmosphere at the height airplanes fly. It circled the globe twice, and twice disrupted air travel in Australia and New Zealand. How did the airlines respond? Well, one grounded its fleet when the ash cloud was present, and another flew under and around the cloud. For two companies that “will never compromise on safety” the response could not have been more different.

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One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is visiting sites. I get to see many, and the differences between the processes, the way local problems are solved, etc are interesting and sometimes a source of inspiration.
But whenever I look at a facility, I make one conclusion based purely on visual information … is this a SAFE facility? First impressions apply to facilities as well as people, and this is my first impression.

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I recently saw a map of the Nord Stream Project pipeline, linking Russia and Germany. It runs under the Baltic Sea, following very close to the seabed boundaries between Russia and Finland and Estonia and Finland before entering Swedish water. It then enters German waters near the German-Polish subsea boundary.

Why is this being done? Surely land based construction is more economical (both in capital and operating costs) than a sea based pipeline?

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Recently I was delivering a guest lecture at one of the Australian universities, and I had to stop my lecture because I had lost the audience. I was able to get them back, but only by abandoning my prepared talk and instead speaking “off the top of my head”.

The reason I had lost my audience … I assumed they understood the three components of the triple bottom line. They did not fully grasp the original member … the financial bottom line.

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I recently read a news article out of the USA regarding electric cars. It seems the US government receives revenue from transportation fuel taxes, which is used cross-country highway maintenance. This government revenue stream would be lost if all cars became electric cars. Naturally, a road “does not know” if the cars are fossil fuel or electric (or bio-diesel, for that matter), they just “know” they need to be maintained. The government needs to not only satisfy the general public’s desire to transform to a lower carbon economy, but also to maintain the existing income streams. The current budget situation in Washington DC just adds to the complexity of the issue. One possible solution being proposed is a one-off or annual fee.

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