By Darrel Canada
In March, I had the pleasure of being asked to train about 500 employees of Tejas Tubulars in Houston, Texas. As part of the same company-wide effort, I also traveled to Stephenville, Texas, the next day and did a training class for another 300 employees at the Tejas facility there.
The company owner, Max Tejada, Sr., and his son, Max Tejada, Jr., are exemplary for the stand they’ve made, when it comes to ownership and management decisions, as to whether those decisions are made for safety over profit. The whole company was shut down for a full day in Houston and a full day in Stephenville. Attendance by the employees was mandatory. Imagine, a company so dedicated to safety that they are willing to stop production and spend any amount of money to get the best training possible for their employees, to ensure their safety each and every day. The buck stops with them, and they put their money where their mouth is! This company is 25 years old and still growing.
All of the employees were treated to breakfast and were signed in for the mandatory training. The keynote speaker was Charlie Morecraft, one of the most dynamic motivational speakers in the world. The “Remember Charlie” safety video is one of the greatest of all time. He tells his captivated audiences about how on August 8, 1980, he was at work and went to pull a blind, a job he had done a thousand times or more and could have done in his sleep. He drove his company truck too close to an area where there was flammable hydrocarbons (a company policy violation) and got out of the truck. He had the sleeves of his FRC clothing rolled up past his elbows because it was hot outside, (another company policy violation) but he felt cooler and was more comfortable. There was a flash fire that burned Charlie over 50 percent of his body. He had driven out to the field in a company truck, and he returned in an ambulance.
Charlie’s belief and attitude regarding safety at the time was that safety meetings were for sleeping, PPE equipment was for wimps, and if you knew your job well, you could take shortcuts without any problems. He also believed an accident wouldn’t happen to him, and that if he did have an accident, that he would be the only one affected. Within minutes, all the beliefs and myths he held about safety went up in smoke.
Charlie Morecraft was an employee of Exxon for 27 years and had many hours of safety training under his belt. His job was as an operator in the plant, so basically he made gasoline. Charlie goes on to explain how his accident affected his own family, their livelihood, and the quality of their lives. Any employees that are not moved by his talk should be a red flag to an employer, because they may have the same mindset Charlie had before his accident in the 1980s. He pleads for all employees to accept responsibility for their own lives, and to not destroy the people they love.
I said all of that to let you know that Charlie Morecraft, live in person, is not cheap, nor is he an easy act to follow!
I’m thinking, well, great! How do you end the training sessions of the day with someone like me speaking? In reality, though, all of the employees did want to hear about lockout/tag-out and hand protection. They were eager to take notes and ask questions.
I applied the 29 CFR OSHA Standards 1910.138 for Hand protection and 1910.147 Control of Hazardous Energy for Lockout/Tag-out, the required training that must be done by the employer for the employees. I also told them about the other cases that I have investigated through the years where employees were either not trained properly or didn’t follow the proper procedures, so they were either badly injured or killed on the job. After the training sessions were over, the listeners responded with resounding applause for the presentations. As a trainer, there is no better feeling than knowing that maybe you have helped to save someone’s life or maybe changed their outlook on safety!
The owner and his managers then took the stage area and opened the floor for questions about any issues that needed to be addressed with safety procedures or equipment. Issues were brought up about forklifts needing to be replaced and I watched the owner, Max Tejada, Sr., give the approval for new forklifts to be purchased. Employees were also included on teams that day to address any of the issues that were brought up that were a concern.
Two of the other impressive things about Tejas Tubulars were (1) that all of the employees that wanted to hear everything in Spanish were offered hearing devices for translation, and (2) some vendors were on hand and set up to discuss their PPE, such as gloves, steel toe boots, hard hats, lo/to kits, and other products during their breaks. The communication lines were clear and concise and the PPE products were explained thoroughly by the manufacturer’s representatives.
All in all, this is one of the best performances that I have ever seen, over the last 25 years of my career, from an employer to their employees as part of an effort to do the right thing. My hope is that other companies will look at Tejas Tubulars as a leader in the oil and gas industry for for the cause of safety before profit!
Tejas Tubulars is a member of API (American Petroleum Institute) and the IADC (International Association of Drilling Contractors), and they truly understand all the employees and their families that they affect on a daily basis. I wanted to commend them on a job well done.
Darrel Canada is president and Master Trainer at Canada and Associates Safety Training LLC, based in Abilene, Texas, with offices also in Snyder, Midland, and Carrizo Springs, Texas. Find them at canada-associates.com.