Safety is an essential frame of mind, especially if you’re in the building, construction or trades business. Some union organizations believe nearly all deaths, illnesses and injuries in the workplace can be prevented. After all, they say, these are not really “accidents” because they usually have well-known causes that can be controlled.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), with its 2,100 inspectors, is responsible for the health and safety of 130 million workers who are employed at more than eight million worksites around the nation. Furthermore, our federal, state and local governments continually layer on additional rules and regulations – all in the name of safety. These regulations and their enforcement help protect all of us.
Health and safety are so important that many companies devote entire divisions strictly to protecting their workers, customers, and the environment. These divisions are typically referred to as the Environment, Health and Safety division, or EHS that occurs in states across the nation.
It’s usually the role of the EHS to play the “could” game. In other words, they prepare for (and practice) necessary protocols when something “could” go wrong. Not “would” or “should” but could.
The problem with the could game, and risk management, in general, is that it’s easy to get carried away with every scenario of what could happen. It could be endless. There is no way to eliminate accidents from happening in anything we do. Perfection is an impossible, unrealistic goal – period.
The solution? A fair balance between best practices, smart policies, and reducing the risk that something could happen, while still performing a job and protecting our communities and our environment. In the energy world, it’s called responsible development. It’s all about producing and moving energy to where it’s needed, safely and efficiently. And it’s where EHS thrives.
For America’s traditional energy industry, moving products safely means utilizing pipelines, and the Line 5 pipeline that crosses into Michigan is one example.
People have asked about leaks, freezing temperatures, and the effects on the pipe and pressure within the line. Everything that could happen. Thankfully, countless engineers and EHS experts have focused on those kinds of situations – and many, many more – during the lifespan of the pipeline and now as they look to build a new one.
But some extreme groups in the environmental community are demanding an immediate shutdown of Line 5, saying a rupture could contaminate hundreds of miles of open waters and shorelines. It’s an unfortunate tactic, but fear is a motivating emotion, and they’re getting the attention of some of our most prominent elected officials.
Despite independent studies, thorough research, in-depth plans and bi-partisan support two top-level state policymakers demanded a two-year timeline to shut down Line 5, which is vital to bringing propane to many of the residents in the Upper Peninsula who rely on the fuel to heat their homes. Now, without a fixed date for shutting down the line, and despite the latest court ruling, Michigan’s Attorney General has decided to continue with state taxpayer-funded legal action through an appeal. So instead of the conversation resting with our brilliant engineers and EHS experts as to how to safely deliver the energy Michigan needs, and despite bipartisan support and the ruling of a prominent judge, the state’s AG will take this same issue back to court.
It seems a bit unreasonable, especially because her profession doesn’t take into account the knowledge need to understand any of the could scenarios Yet, here we are again – in an eerie case of déjà vu.
I suppose the could game could cut both ways. Michiganders could support ending Line 5. They could prepare for job losses, significant economic disturbances, more unsafe modes of transport or even rationed energy.
Or, perhaps these are the things policymakers could want for their citizens?
One would hope that nobody could want that for the people of Michigan.
Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail, and the solution could be to let work be done on Line 5, so jobs, economics, environmental security and safety stay our state’s top priorities and not the priorities of a few individuals bending the rest of us to their will.