Perspectives: Field Notes

You Can’t Duck Responsibility for Safety

Delegating design work doesn’t get you off the hook.

By Dirk Willard, Contributing Editor

I was chatting on Facebook about engineers and our occasionally twisted sense of humor when I imagined the hallway at General Motors after the design review on the faulty ignition switch that has led to several fatalities. “How many soccer moms do you think we’ll kill, Bob?” “Oh, maybe a dozen — is that too many?” “Let's ask the corporate lawyer — he’s part of the design team. Don’t forget to ask the accountant. He’ll say an extra 10 cents a car is too much to spend.”

Read more

More from this perspective...

Title

Match the Flow Meter to the Service

Consider operating conditions not just specifications and price

01/23/2014

Making Your Process Operator-Proof

Senior Editor Dirk Willard discusses Shigeo Shingo's take on mistake-proofing, or Poke Yoke, if you speak Japanese. The practice suggests the following devices: eliminate — redesign, facilitate — guide, mitigate — lessen the damage caused by the error, or flag — identify the error.

12/05/2006

Make the most of newly hired, experienced engineers

Contributing Editor Dirk Willard reminds readers that an old dogs can learn new tricks and plants should keep this in mind when hiring new, yet experienced, engineers.

10/29/2007

Make the Most of Electric Tracing

The technique offers benefits but demands attention to details

01/02/2014

Make the Most of Contractors

Using hired help effectively starts by treating them as part of your team.

10/15/2008

Make Your Message Clear and Concise

Some common errors plague writing done by many engineers.

09/16/2014

Make Your Drawings Match Your Process

Outdated P&IDs can lead to tragedy

12/21/2011

Maintain an open mind about maintenance options

Sometimes it’s better to take a preventive rather than predictive approach

06/17/2008

Look at the Big Picture

Ensure that dealing with a safety problem doesn't cause a second risk.

03/22/2012

Level transmitter — art not science

There is much more to setting up a transmitter than a mere equation. Design and control errors can certainly compromise performance. Follow these simple tricks to get it right.

06/13/2006

Learning foreign languages can make your job easier

Don’t build walls, by ignoring foreign languages, says Contributing Editor Dirk Willard, in this month's Field Notes column. Learning foreign languages can make your job easier.

10/04/2007

Learn from a Safety Guru

Take advantage of the insights in the books of a renowned expert

10/23/2014

Learn Office Politics

Improving your political savvy can help you survive.

01/07/2010

Know when to leave a sinking ship

The unspoken truth about projects is that they all come to an end, according to Dirk Willard in this month's Field Notes column. The key, he says, is knowing when to leave.

01/03/2007

Know when to call for help

Sometimes a construction manager is a necessary evil, says Dirk Williard, in this month's Field Notes column.

08/20/2007

Know Your Rights

Intellectual property agreements can pose significant concerns.

03/03/2011

Keeping Peace While Managing Unions

Dealing with unions often poses challenges to engineers

08/07/2008

Keep plant layout from laying you low

Spot mistakes before they literally become set in stone on the site

05/02/2008

Keep Current on Your Electrical Measurement Equipment

Electrical measurements often can offer valuable insights.

04/04/2013

Keep Confined Space Work Safe

Rigorous attention to detail is essential to minimize risks and enhance response.

09/27/2010