I want to tell you a true pipelining story about old Bill Daniels and Scruffy Smith, The Blind Safety Guy and his Two Legged, Seeing-Eye Dog, Precious. It’s a Story about teamwork, dedication and communication.
Now old Bill came up to Canada as a young engineer to work for Bechtel building the Trans Mountain Pipeline Project in ’52, Bill hailed from Oklahoma and had 6 other brothers and sisters who all had PHD’s in various disciplines, so one could say smarts truly ran in their family genes. After seeing considerable pain, suffering and loss of life on that Project, old Bill decided he wanted to get into the safety side of engineering to see if he could make a difference…..Some folks reckon he had two strikes against him already, one being an engineer and two, a safety man, so he bought a dog to have a friend. Back in the 90’s I was fortunate enough to go to work for Bill, he became my mentor, a man who forgot more than most of us ever will know and I was able to work on some of the largest mega projects in Canada and one overseas. But I digress, and here is the rest of the story
There once was this fellow who was an experienced Safety Guy, Scruffy Smith and over the years he went totally blind from macular degeneration and could no longer perform his regular inspection duties. Not wanting to give up the career he loved, he contacted the National Institute for the Blind and inquired about a seeing-eye dog.
The Administrator told him that they were out of dogs, save one old black lab, Precious who had lost his rear legs in a car accident, but was still capable of seeing an ant at a considerable distance. Old Scruffy, the safety guy immediately felt an instant attachment to the old lab and took him home
After months of training, the two rapidly developed a close bond and were a great team. Scruffy had trained the dog to understand some simple voice commands and the two could communicate flawlessly. With help from friends he got back to his former employer.
After talking to the company they agreed to see him and the dog and see if all of this could work out. Being a fairly progressive firm they rounded up the job stewards to see what they could do to help. The mechanics supplied an axle and wheels, the pipe engineers and survey designed the cart, the bending crew bent the pipe into a frame, the tie in/lowering in guys aligned all the pieces together and the pipe gang drew straws to see who was going to weld it all together, Xray and Quality boys ensured the unit would hold together on the rough terrain, the sandblaster took the finish to bare metal and the coaters coated and painted it all, the ditch and grade crew made sure there were clear paths so Scruffy and Precious could get around on the Spread, and stringing built ramped skid piles so the two could get up on them and view areas on the Right of Way, the pipe haulers got involved and moved Scruffy’s unit to the next spot he wanted to inspect, the carpenters/laborers fashioned a lightweight brace from some tubing, and made a padded harness, the electricians built a small flashing beacon. Even the test crew got in on the act and built a plug, cause the old dog had bad gas. Even management got involved and had a set of boots and a pair of doggles made up. The dog had a uncanny knack of noticing job site hazards and would bark once when he saw something. Scruffy, the Blind Safety Guy would rattle off a list of voice commands and when they matched the infraction, the dog would bark three times.
One day, they were out walking the spread, Precious leading Scruffy who was holding the reins and the dog barked incessantly. “What is it Scruffy?”, Blind Safety Guy asked. The dog was barking frantically now. The Blind Safety Guy rattled off a list of commands, and Precious barked three times at the “Fall Protection Signal” Scruffy, the Blind Safety signaled again “is he wearing any?” and Precious barked three times to signal YES!
Scruffy, The Blind Safety Guy signaled, “Is he tied off/” Precious, the two legged seeing eyed dog barked twice to indicate NO!
“Did he fall?’ Scruffy, the Blind Safety Guy signaled. Precious, the two legged seeing eye dog barked three times, indicating YES!
“Oh my” thought Scruffy, the Blind Safety Guy as he reached for his radio button to call the foreman who asked how his man was doing.
Scruffy, the Blind Safety Guy again signaled to Precious, “how is he?”
Precious, the two legged seeing eye dog barked……..Ruff.
The moral to the story? No matter what challenges and obstacles we are faced with on this project, a collaborative approach to safety, teamwork and clear communications will help us overcome all of them.
Remember your co-worker….we won’t walk by, we won’t wait until it is too late.