Are you missing Gary aka Mr. Coking.com as much as we are? Though he may be busy soaking up the sun in his retirement and no longer working with us in the field, his wise words on safety in the unit are truly evergreen. Please enjoy this throwback on the topic of Farmer Fixes.
One of the things that I’ve been seeing a lot in the past several years is what I like to refer to as “The Farmer Fix.” The Farmer Fix is when hydraulics are leaky and somebody puts a five-gallon bucket underneath it. It catches the drips that are flowing from there. Then the bucket overfills or we have a rain storm, and what does oil do in water? Oil floats up. Now there’s big oily mess. Or we wrap something around the leak – well that is like a band-aid. It gets a little soggy and next thing you know we’ve got oil everywhere.
The other thing is when we’re supporting pieces of piping or things like that with wood or rope. I remember at one plant there was a four-inch fiber optics conduit that tied the east and west refinery together. It was held up by rope!
These are not engineered. These haven’t gone through the management of change (MOC) process. We’ve seen it a lot with some of the automation that we’ve included in the unit. When it doesn’t work, what’s the first thing we do. I know get the sledgehammer out, mm-hmm. I know we go around the system and we’re very creative. We don’t even have to be a farmer to figure it out. We’ve got number nine wire. We’ve got duct tape. We’ve got chunks of wood.
I was at one plant – they had a solenoid valve. At the top of the diaphragm of the solenoid valve, I found a pencil jammed in there. The solenoid could have never worked.
I’ve seen wires jumpered over on bottom un-heading devices! Oh scary, big-time! So let’s look for those farmer fixes.
Sometimes when we go around things, we need to report it. We need a variance. We need to have management know that things aren’t working in the unit. That’s why we have management of change.
Going back even to the Piper Alpha days in the 80s where those 167 people died, management of change was not being used. So let’s use it. Let’s keep our safety record at ten million man-hours of safe work days, but let’s not do the farmer fixes. And if they’re necessary, let’s get the thing fixed as soon as possible and let’s let management know there’s a problem with that piece of equipment.
-Gary Pitman, Coker Subject Matter expert
Get more practical articles on delayed coker operations and maintenance, see Gary’s Blog at Coking.