As reported in The ChronicleHerald, it’s a phrase we hear all too often. It makes your blood boil. After every tragedy — be it BP’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (the biggest environmental disaster in U.S. history) or the carnage and 47 deaths in the wake of the Lac-Mégantic train crash — we’ll hear someone say: “We should have seen the signs!”
In both those cases, the signs were everywhere. Some employees even complained about perils beforehand. So why weren’t the problems resolved before disaster struck?
It boils down to how we detect and manage those threats or “signs.”
You want to safely move potentially volatile material like oil or gas? You want to do what is necessary, but in a safe, predicable and environmentally friendly fashion? There are ways to ensure the company or companies involved are equipped with proper policies and procedures.
Before you call in all the suits and lawyers from company headquarters for the public hearings and licencing process, first talk to the folks who wear the boots and helmets. It’s not the suits and lawyers who will be building that pipeline, digging the trenches or laying the pipes, doing the complex and difficult welding of section after section after section. That’s the job of those men and women in the field.
How do you talk to them? Get an experienced and respected research firm and run a number of focus groups with those employees. (Having spent years in the polling and research business, yours truly knows just how vital their views and work experience can be.)
So, what do you ask those hardworking folks?