Goodbye Snow, Hello Spring

By Greg Sitek

RMG aNo snow today or for the immediate future. That means spring has sprung and orange cones should start blooming everywhere. That means the sounds of construction equipment should be filling the air replacing the sounds of snowplows and salt spreaders – at lease in a majority of the country.

Are you ready? More importantly, are your employees and machines ready?

Spring is a good time to refresh everyone’s understanding and knowledge of safety on the jobsite, around the equipment and while operating the equipment. Most equipment manufacturers have machine-specific safety information available. This is a good time to make sure that this information is available. If not, contact your local equipment dealer or the manufacturer and get copies. Hand it out to the concerned or involved employees. Don’t depend on them picking it up on their own.

If you need generic safety materials The Association of Equipment Manufacturers has a library of safety manuals covering virtually all the equipment you use. They also have a selection of videos both of which are available in languages other than English. You can visit AEM online at: www.aem.org and click on the store button or scan: (Insert aem safety qr scan code). The equipment manufacturers who produce the equipment have developed the AEM safety material.

So much for the personnel, after you make certain that they are properly dressed and supplied with the required safety for the job. Let’s talk about the equipment.

Most equipment owners have been spending the winter months repairing, updating and getting their equipment ready for the job. Even so there is always the final check before a piece of equipment is loaded on a trailer headed for the job.

Two things come to mind that are often forgotten: the first is making certain that the operator’s manual is onboard; the second is that the ground engaging tools have been serviced and are ready for the first job.

Since I have your attention, let’s add and another item to the list… the prestart check list. You know, the walk-around inspection list.

It’s difficult to remember what every button, switch, lever, light, warning buzzer means. It’s easy to forget where something is, especially if you change machines with any regularity. Beside the operator’s manual is loaded with useful information, hints and even tips that can help you do the job better. It’s good to have it on hand for quick and easy reference JUST IN CASE.

What about the ground engaging tools? For years there has been an argument about what is the most important part of a piece of equipment – the machine itself, the engine, the electrical system, the hydraulic system, the operator’s station.

The correct answer is the “tool.” Without it the machine has nothing to do. And the tool depends on its ground-engaging component for its effectiveness whether it’s teeth, blade or piercing tool. Dull, worn teeth, blade or leading edge on a bucket hinder a machine’s ability to do its job. Dull worn ground engaging tools minimize a machine’s productivity and maximize its fuel consumption – a perfect combination for lower productivity and less profit.

Pre-start checklists are almost always provided by the machine manufacturer in the operator’s manual or service manual. Some equipment owners, based on experience, develop their own inspection routines. If you’re looking for information relative to equipment maintenance and management you should visit the Association of Equipment Management Professionals (AEMP) by visiting: www.aemp.org

In any organization or on any construction projects the two most important components are the personnel and the equipment. Take care of both…

This articled appeared as an editorial in the April 2105 issues of the 13 ACP publications.

 

Oil — The Elixir of Modern Living

RMG1aBy Greg Sitek

Oil is one of nature’s more generous gifts. It is the lubricant of life as we know and live it. It is infused into virtually every aspect of our lifestyle. Here is a partial list:

Clothing Ink, Heart Valves, Crayons, Parachutes, Telephones, Enamel, Transparent tape, Antiseptics, Vacuum bottles, Deodorant, Pantyhose, Rubbing Alcohol, Carpets, Epoxy paint, Oil filters, Upholstery, Hearing Aids, Car sound insulation, Cassettes, Motorcycle helmets, Pillows, Shower doors, Shoes, Refrigerator linings, Electrical tape, Safety glass, Awnings, Salad bowl, Rubber cement, Nylon rope, Ice buckets, Fertilizers, Hair coloring, Toilet seats, Denture adhesive, Loudspeakers, Movie film, Fishing boots, Candles, Water pipes, Car enamel, Shower curtains, Credit cards, Aspirin, Golf balls, Detergents, Sunglasses, Glue, Fishing rods, Linoleum, Plastic wood, Soft contact lenses, Trash bags, Hand lotion, Shampoo, Shaving cream, Footballs, Paint brushes, Balloons, Fan belts, Umbrellas, Paint Rollers, Luggage, Antifreeze, Model cars, Floor wax,Tires,Dishwashingliquids,Unbreakabledishes,Toothbrushes,Toothpaste,Combnts, Hair curlers, Lipstick, Ice cube trays, Electric blankets, Tennis rackets, Drinking cups,

House paint, Roller-skate wheels, Guitar strings, Ammonia, Eyeglasses, Ice chests, Life jackets, TV cabinets, Car battery cases, Insect repellent, Refrigerants, Typewriter ribbons,

Cold cream, Glycerin, Plywood adhesive, Cameras, Anesthetics ,Artificial turf, Artificial Limbs, Bandages, Dentures, Mops, Beach Umbrellas, Ballpoint pens, Boats, Nail polish, Golf bags, Caulking, Tape recorders, Curtains, Vitamin capsules, Dashboards, Putty, Percolators, Skis, Insecticides, Fishing lures, Perfumes, Shoe polish, Petroleum jelly, Faucet washers, Food preservatives, Antihistamines, Cortisone, Dyes, LP records, Solvents, Roofing, and many more things we use often if not daily. (source: Yahoo Answers: https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080807185043AAlPQa3)

The US uses 18.89 million barrels of oil a day. Of that, “The United States imported approximately 9.9 million barrels per day (MMbbl/d) of petroleum in 2013 from about 80 countries. Petroleum includes crude oil and refined petroleum products such as gasoline and diesel fuel, and biofuels including ethanol and biodiesel. In 2013, about 78% of gross petroleum imports were crude oil, and about 51% of the crude oil that was processed in U.S. refineries was imported.

‘The United States exported 3.6 MMbbl/d of crude oil and petroleum products in 2013, resulting in net imports (imports minus exports) of 6.2 MMbbl/d in 2013. Net imports accounted for 33% of the petroleum consumed in the United States, the lowest annual average since 1985.

“The top five source countries providing U.S. petroleum imports in 2013 were Canada, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela.  Their respective rankings vary based on gross petroleum imports or net petroleum imports (gross imports minus exports). Net imports from Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) countries accounted for 56% of U.S. net imports.”

(US Energy Information Administration http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=727&t=6)

Oil, more than any other single commodity has a direct impact on our lives and living standards. The recent decrease in oil prices is great; or is it?

According to Moody’s Investors Service, (this issue includes an article from Moody’s on this topic) it’s good for some markets/industries while creating problems for others. While individuals are probably enjoying the lower prices some are beginning to suffer as oil-industry related jobs are going through serious negative change. According to a friend who manages an heavy equipment parts and service operations in Odessa TX, hiring has been put on hold as has overtime, extended travel and other services.

Our ACP Associate Publisher for Texas Contractor, Walt Robertson, expressed his concerns stating, “I’m sure everyone is aware of the price dropping of a barrel of oil! And we are all enjoying the low cost of a gallon of gas for our vehicles – That is great news for us – the consumer of general/normal everyday goods!

However – The news is not good for our equipment dealers ( our advertisers ) in the Oil Patch; Texas , Oklahoma, Louisiana and editor added: the Dakotas… Rumblings are taken place in the number of rig permits that are being sought , consolidation  with some of the smaller drilling companies , expansion plans for building of new corporate facilities are being slowed , corporate relocations are being put on hold , already 2 new massive refinery projects have been put on the shelf , layoffs in the thousands are taking place! It is too early to say what will happen as the years progresses – I lived in Houston during the 1980’s when they had their last oil bust – it was not pretty! Texas is a lot better now than it was then

“I’m not trying to paint a gloomy picture of our market – just giving you the facts on what is going on now. We still have a lot of work in the “ pipeline “ … With all the people that have moved into Texas the past 3 years ( 1250 people per day! ) we have school construction , residential & shopping expansion going on , the airports & ports are seeing construction activity and even class A new office building construction is good . If TxDOT receives the money they are seeking for infrastructure expansion – Texas should have a good 2015! Now – if these new Texans decide to move back to their home states??? 

Wells Fargo Reports: Regional Effects of the Oil Price Slump

Oil- and gas-related businesses are cutting capital budgets and implementing layoffs in the face of the continued slide in oil prices. The bulk of the burden is falling on just a handful of states. Energy-Producing States Brace for Job Losses The ongoing fall in oil prices will hurt domestic producers, squeeze their profits and reduce their capital spending and exploration efforts. Producers are not the only ones who will feel the squeeze. The decline in capital spending and exploration will also hurt support businesses, manufacturers of related equipment, and possibly spill over to firms that build pipelines, transport oil and sell the commodity. Weakness in the domestic oil and gas industry has contributed to a downward adjustment of our forecast for business fixed investment for the first quarter of 2015. The sharp pullback in oil- and gas-related investment and employment will largely be concentrated in energy producing states, while the benefits of cheaper gas will be more equitably divided among the entire nation.For full report visit: http://www.sitekconstructionzone.com/?s=Wells+Fargo+Reports%3A+Regional+effectsNext time you fill up look around and see all that we do with oil; besides fueling our vehicles we power our lifestyle. 

Sharing an E-Mail

9-11I’ve been around a long time. No, not that long… I’m not pushing the century mark, not yet and have not been designated a curmudgeon by everyone who knows me. During my tenure on earth I witnessed many political changes domestically and internationally. I remember World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Desert Storm 1 and 2, Afghanistan and all the conflicts that filled the gaps. 9-11 is a fresh memory that gets renewed daily as I look at the picture I took of the rubble only days after…

My memories are filled with fears. Yes, I was taught and learned to fear the “isms” that echoed around the world almost always to the background sound of war, destruction, death, pain, starvation and suffering. Even at my advanced age there are fears, which I have not conquered, one of them is the fear of socialism.

I have always lived in our United States; I have served a four-year tour of duty in the Air Force, which included a tour in post-war Korea. I lost a brother while he was in the Air Force and had numerous relatives who had also served. Ok, what’s my point?

Fair question.

My point is that I have watched our country erode from an industrial/agricultural nation with an extremely high work ethic, to one that is beginning to embrace socialism. We have lost our global leadership position in so many arenas to countries that have become or are becoming what we were only a few years go.

What prompted this rant? It’s an email from a friend that I am going to share with you but the Internet being what it is, you have probably seen it or received it. I’m certain that many will disagree with me for doing this and for the lesson shared in the following. But, because of our Constitution I can express my feelings, thoughts and opinions and I am exercising that Constitutional right.

An economics teacher at a local college made a statement that he had never failed a single student before but had recently failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. 

The teacher then said, “OK, we will have an experiment in this class on Labor’s plan”.. All grades will be averaged and everyone will receive the same grade so no one will fail and no one will receive an A…. (substituting grades for dollars – something closer to home and more readily understood by all).=

After the first test, the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. As the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too so they studied little.  

The second test average was a D! 

No one was happy. 

T he 3rd test , the average was an F. 

As the tests proceeded, the scores never increased as bickering, blame and name-calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. 

To their great surprise ALL FAILED and the teacher told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great, but when government takes all the reward away, no one will try or want to succeed.

Could not be any simpler than that.

These are possibly the 5 best sentences you’ll ever read and all applicable to this experiment :

  1. You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. 
  1. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.
  1. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.
  1. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!
  1. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.”

God Bless America

January ACP Editorial: Year after Year

Milli brings in 2015

Milli brings in 2015

We closed the door on 2014 with a trip back in time to an editorial that I had written in 1989 because it echoed so many of the same things we are facing today. When I found that article I also found a couple of others. We’re going to start 2015 off with a look at an editorial I wrote in 1998. I hope you enjoy meeting this friend of mine from the past:

Coming soon: The Shop

Our books, movies and television seldom pay homage to the professionals who make the greatest difference.

“Where can I find qualified mechanics?” and, “Where can I find skilled operators?” are probably the two most common questions I’ve heard over the years. This has always been a problem, but it now has become more serious.

A possible solution to the problem would be a best seller that becomes an Oscar-winning movie and then a weekly Emmy-winning TV series.

In the book, “The Shop”, our hero Stan Tall is a diesel mechanic graduating from his state’s leading vo-tech diesel college. He’s near the top of his class, and is being courted by several multimillion-dollar equipment dealers. They’ve offered him a new set of tools, with the appropriate tool chests, and a new field-service truck – a sporty model with flare sides.

One of the leading operations in the city has decided to pull out all the stops to get Stan, and has invited him and his wife Patty to the company’s annual blue-collar dinner dance. The music is endless, as is the supply of beer and pizza. Of course, Stan and Patty are not given a chance to spend even one minute together – both are being dazzled by the company leaders and their spouses.

As the evening’s last note fades into memory, Stan and Patty finally succeed in finding each other and leaving in their much-used pickup.

“It certainly would be nice to have a new ride,” Stan says, opening the door for Patty.

“It would,” she agrees, “and to be able to go out to dinner and a movie once in a while. What do you think, Stan, are you going to take the job?”

“They want me to come by and look the shop over.”

Stan’s visit to the shop clinched the deal. The place was spotless, well-lit, air conditioned and better equipped than anything he had imagined. Every service bay was fully stocked with tools, diagnostic equipment, service supplies and support computers.

The decision was easy. Who wouldn’t want to work in these conditions, at a pay level that made the “good life” possible, and be a respected, well-regarded member of an affluent society? Stan was proud of his accomplishments and the fact that he was a professional. He felt a strong sense of security about his and Patty’s future. Stan was a mechanic. Patty was a mechanic’s wife. This was the dream life most parents wanted for their children. Wasn’t it?

Somewhere between the fantasy life in The Shop and the harshness of reality is where we need to be. The truth is that being a mechanic is not a dream for most people.

As a society, we do a poor job of preparing our children for the future. Our tendency is to glorify some professions and ignore others. We do very little to encourage our children to aspire to hands-on professions like mechanics, masonry, carpentry, equipment operation and all the others you can list.

Because of this, most people don’t aspire to enter critically necessary professions. What are we going to do when our mechanical world slowly grinds to a halt because no one can diagnose its problems much less fix them?

Since I wrote this editorial there have been several TV series that focus on the professional skilled worker, including Mike Rowe’s TV series, “Dirty Jobs.”

Visit site-kconstructionzone.com and type “Mike Rowe” in the search box at the top right hand side of the home page.

The final sentence may not be as far from today as we would like to believe. The problems over getting a new highway bill through congress attest to this. Where would we be with out our transportation infrastructure?

“The Roads Must Roll” is a 1940 science fiction short story by Robert A. Heinlein. In the late 1960s, it was awarded a retrospective Nebula Award by the Science Fiction Writers of America and published in The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One, 1929–1964 anthology in 1970.

The story is set in the near future, when “roadtowns” (wide rapidly moving passenger platforms similar to moving sidewalks, but reaching speeds of 100 mph) have replaced highways and railways as the dominant transportation method in the United States.

Heinlein’s themes are technological change and social cohesion. The fictional social movement he calls functionalism (which is unrelated to the real-life sociological theory of the same name), advances the idea that one’s status and level of material reward in a society must and should depend on the functions one performs for that society.

“The Roads Must Roll” is a good read. Who knows, with our growing shortage of skilled professionals maybe Heinlein’s science fiction fantasy may become reality especially if we have to continue our “roads” maintenance without a coherent highway bill.

Happy New Year.

Let’s Go Places – How About Back to November 1989

RMG1aRecently while cleaning out some files I cam across a collection of editorials I had written years ago. Surprisingly some really seemed to fit the world as it is today with minor modifications. The point is although everything changes nothing is different.

Read With Caution, May Cause Drowsiness appeared as an editorial in 1989.

Here it is, November, the 11th month. Daylight savings time is over. It’s dark when you leave the house in the morning. It’s dark when you get home in the evening. You can’t go out without a jacket and some mornings you even need your gloves. If you park outside chances are you have to scrape your windows.

By now you’ve had an opportunity to read several articles on “The Wonders of Winter Maintenance. Winter is like taxes – something you simply can’t escape.

In addition to maintenance worries, winter presents safety concerns. Not only do we have to deal with ice and snow on the roads, we have to deal with the limited visibility of frosted and fogged windshields, back windows and mirrors. Then there are the ice-covered steps and frozen grab-irons, slippery floors and snow-covered boots.

The opportunities to practice safety are innumerable during winter season. If it gets cold enough you have to be concerned about staying out too long, touching metal and wearing the right clothes. One safety concern in particular s often neglected.

With the snow comes colds and flu. Everyone tries to fight these bugs with off-the-shelf remedies. How often have you taken a cold capsule or other remedy and gone to work? Did you read the label? Did it happen to say, “Do not operate machinery or equipment after taking! May cause drowsiness.” Probably.

It’s something we all do, well maybe 1ot all of us. It’s something we shouldn’t lo. Some of these remedies may have little or no effect on us and our ability to operate cars, trucks, machines or do our job. We may not fall asleep. We might think that because we weigh 200 lbs one little pill can’t hurt us. The fact is that many of these medicines can slow our reflexes or impair our judgment.

There are alternatives that don’t cause drowsiness or produce other negative effects. If you have to work when you’re sick take them instead. Don’t take a chance. When you’re working as part of a group, what you do can and does, affect everyone. If you’re not sure, talk to your doctor and find out if it’s OK to work on or operate a piece of machinery while taking certain medicines or drugs.

This matter could be a topic for a safety meeting. It’s something that people – me included — never think about, but should. Getting behind the wheel of a car, truck or machine is serious business. When we do it we assume responsibility for any and every one who might come in contact with us. Please, don’t take this responsibility lightly.

Safety is not a seasonal activity. Being a safe worker, employer and employee is a year-around requirement. If we expect the company we work for to provide us with the safety gear necessary to do our job, it’s only fair that we show up in condition to do the job.

Remember that clothing should meet existing safety requirements. If safety shoes are required that’s what should be worn. No, gym shoes are not an acceptable substitute. It’s easy to slip on a pair of “sneakers” and not bother changing when you get to work.

(Winter clothing poses more safety hazards than less bulky and restricting summer clothing.)

It’s a lot easier to wear a baseball cap than the hard hat; or forget your safety glasses when you should be wearing them. Being safety conscious isn’t always easy. Sometimes it requires extra effort. But, it’s always worth it.

Safety is an individual commitment. A company is only as safe as the most careless of its employees. Unfortunately, an individual’s dedication to being safe is never as noticeable as one person’s care­ less conduct.

To be safe, you must think safe, dress safe, act safe and live safe. Being safe is one thing you’ll never live to regret — so is being careless!

That was 1989. Not much has changed, has it?

A Merry and Safe Christmas and Happy and Safe New Year to you and your families.

This editorial appeared in the December 2014 issues of the ACP magazines.