For some people, the “Great Crew Change” can’t come fast enough

You need a thick skin to write for a large, online audience.

I’ve gotten pretty good at ignoring the “trolls”:  if someone says or comments “you/your writing sucks”, I just think to myself “well, you suck too”, and I move along.

The point is that while I have no problem engaging in a constructive disagreement, it’s best not to acknowledge flat out negativity.

But then, this afternoon, in response to a piece I wrote on oilfield safety, I received this email:

****Start email****

Chip (Note:  “David” is pretty easy to pronounce.  My last name, Vaucher (VO-shay) is French, it gets mispronounced all the time…”Chip” is a new one though)

I have a couple of questions:

1.      Have you ever worked in the oilfield?  I’m talking about being a drilling rig hand, not supervising or observing; and

2.      Have you ever worked on the floor of a workover rig/pulling unit?

I have a pretty good feel for the answers: no…………………and, no.

Accidents happen, my friend, no matter how much preparation is taken to eliminate them.  There’s this thing called gravity: people fall down, and things fall down on people.  Equipment breaks – all equipment.  There are at least 100,000 ways a person can get hurt around a drilling rig, and even more around a workover rig.  That is NOT an exaggeration.

I remember, while working for [company name withheld to avoid embarrassing a highly reputable organization filled with actual professionals] in Iraan, Texas, that it was decided that all personnel working on the floor of a workover rig or on a snubbing unit must wear goggles as opposed to safety glasses to protect the eyes from shards of steel flying from tongs or pipe wrenches, or hammers or a dozen other tools and equipment.  The incidence of injuries: people falling on the floor, from the floor, from stairs to and from the floor, and injuries like lost fingers and broken arms and legs became so appalling that [the company] finally listened to the personnel they were trying to protect.  The hands were partially blinded by pipe dope smeared on the goggles, and scratches easily caused on the soft plastic, or the fog that occurs when one sweats in cool weather, etc.

‘Very poorly thought out article, Chip.  If you really want to discuss safety, put the steel toe boots and gloves on and do the work for a year or two.  A University degree [it’s actually two Master’s degrees, which admittedly makes me an expert on nothing, but let’s at least be factually accurate] doesn’t qualify you on this topic.  You’ll need hands on experience, pad’ner [Yes, he actually wrote that].

****End email***

This gentleman actually sent me his and his employer’s name.  I don’t want to embarrass the current employer either, but I will have to refer to this gentleman several times, and since writing “gentleman” (just like writing “David”) constantly can be tedious I have– since he is fond of nicknames – chosen to use the appellation “Dip”.

I’m sure you’ll notice that though it has paragraphs and sentences, which makes this far better constructed than most trolls’ comments, Dip’s email basically states:  “you suck”.

So why am I bothering to share this?

Because people like this are EXACTLY why accidents continue to happen in the oilfield.

Because people like this are why there have to be third parties policing the industry.

When I write about regulations (as I have done here), I’m not taking a stand for them for the sake of it, or because I believe that no one in the industry can be trusted.  Rather, I do so because while I think the vast majority of people are professional and well-meaning, there will always be that handful of Dips out there that will ruin things for everyone, and THEY are the ones who must be policed.

Think about this:

It’s highly likely (and horrifying) that Dip has had people working under him; is his attitude regarding safety – (pardon my French) “shit happens” – something we as an industry feel comfortable passing on to the next generation of workers?

In fact, if Dip was the one supervising that field he mentions, I’m not surprised there were so many accidents, and if you follow Dip’s “shit happens” philosophy, then really we should all just stop worrying so much about silly things like safety, pop open a cold one (on the rigfloor, because why not?!), and just kick back and chill.

I mean…seriously:

Why bother predicting and preventing blowouts?

After all, “there’s this thing” called pressure.

Why devote so much time to drafting procedures to prevent platform explosions?

After all, “there’s this thing” called fire.

And so on.

One of my more popular columns involved me commenting on the sometimes erroneous assumption that simple “time served” in the industry equates to actual knowledge, capabilities and expertise.

Here we have exhibit A for why that assumption is flawed.

While the “Great Crew Change” represents on the whole a huge loss of talent, mentors and expertise for the oil & gas industry, I’m sure you’ll agree with me that for some, it can’t come soon enough.

So Dip, if you’re reading this, please do the industry a favor, and ride quietly off into the sunset…



Final note:  The views represented here are mine and mine alone, not necessarily those of the organizations of which I am a part.