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All of the Avid family was deeply saddened by the news of the horrific Central Texas fertilizer plant explosion on Wednesday evening, April 17th. Our hearts are heavy for those that lost their lives, lost loved ones, lost homes, and those injured.
There will be many months of reviewing the accident to help find any insight on preventing such a tragedy again. Just as in previous cases, sometimes better solutions are found, and unfortunately some of these tragedies are accidents that could never be prevented. Regardless of the findings, it is a reminder of how safety should be at the forefront of all of our work.
The first email that I received the morning after the accident was from a respected colleague. A few of his words:
For those of you who have known me for a while, you know the most sure fire way to get me excited, upset, engaged, and emotional, is to talk about process safety issues. As many of you know, I cut my teeth as an engineer at various large chemical plants.While we were never perfect and accidents did happen, there was also an incredibly strong culture of safety that permeated everything we did. I could list examples for paragraphs about the different ways this affected how I did my job from day to day. Even more important than that was the culture it instilled in me personally. Much the same way as an honest person speaking about their faith and religion will admit that they fall short every day in their pursuit of being the best "worshiper, follower, etc.," they always know where their compass is pointing, and at a minimum they know what they should be doing and this guides them no matter the circumstances. I feel the same way about safety and related issues. While I may not be perfect every day with respect to safety issues, at least I know my true north with respect to what is right, and what I should expect from myself and my co-workers.
As an Automation Systems Integrator, I'm not nearly as concerned about knowing how to tune a loop or understanding what a heat exchanger does. I'm much more concerned about people having what I refer to as an appropriate level of respect and downright fear for the process right outside the control room door.
The uncomfortable fact of the world we live in, and more specifically the industries we operate in, is that accidents happen. When accidents happen, it's not just operators that get injured or die. It's secretaries, and janitors, and the delivery guy that was just bringing bottled water to the control room. They are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, aunts and uncles, best friends, husbands and wives, fishing buddies, neighbors, Sunday school teachers, volunteer firefighters, ladies who work the soup kitchens on the weekends.
I really want that to sink in for every one of us. The next time you are trying to get something wrapped up and out the door because you have a t-ball practice to go to, or a buddy to meet for beers after work, or you need to hustle home to get packed so you can get started driving to your beach vacation, remember that the work you do matters. The work you do keeps people safe. The work you do makes sure Bubba and John and Sally Joe and Fred make it home safely to their families at night.
Safety is personal, and safety is a community. In fact, safety is one of four core values at Avid. We are to live that value and hold others accountable. It's not only a value for engineers, but also for support staff and corporate leadership. As indicated above, our employees are passionate about safety and expect the same from each and every colleague.
The same colleague challenged each and every employee to do a few things to increase safety awareness. I think the same applies to everyone in the industry. Study major industrial accidents to increase awareness and knowledge. Ignorance isn't bliss. Do something every day to affect safety in a real way before you go home. Small actions have great impacts.
To quote our colleague regarding safety actions, "It's a mindset and a culture, not a task to check off because that's what you were told you had to do. Be safe and take care of those around you."