Hired to help upgrade his hometown’s aging sewage system and its labyrinth of buried pipes that could stretch from Los Angeles to New York, Memphis contractor Wiley Richards never lacked respect for job-site safety. In his construction world that includes treacherous trenches and the tightest of spaces, he knew, any shortcuts or attention lapses, even for an instant, could kill.
Yet the 50-year-old grandfather admits that in his two-decade-old family-run W&T Construction, conveying best practices about safety to his two dozen employees didn’t have structure or a culture. Kansas-based Black & Veatch, the global design and construction company hired to oversee the Memphis Sanitary Sewer Overflow program, helped solve that.
For a week in February, century-old Black & Veatch shared its time-tested safety practices during a free seminar for local supervisors and contractors working on the 10-year program. Explaining that the sewer makeover, expected to cost hundreds of millions of dollars, shouldn’t cost anyone a limb or a life, the training was steeped in the belief that keeping things safe in a notoriously perilous line of work would safeguard crews and the public. And it’d help keep the program on track and on budget.
Richards and his brother – each vice presidents of their business – snapped up two of the indoctrination’s 25 first-come, first-served slots that filled up quickly. Wiley Richards found the tutelage on what he called Black & Veatch’s “high-end safety program” to be informative and, most importantly, transferrable to his own troops.
“With a small business, there are a lot of hats you have to wear to stay in business. There are a variety of issues to deal with, and safety advocacy is high among them,” he acknowledged. “We certainly have tried to operate in a safe manner, but we lacked some protocols.”
But during Black & Veatch’s mentoring about such things as regulatory requirements, mitigation of hazards no matter how small, fall protection, and excavation and forklift safety, he said, “they really go above and beyond to cultivate the culture and speak to it.”
“They’re very consistent with it, and it has helped us tremendously to take those tools and points and share it with our employees,” Wiley Richards added. “We want our employees to have a safe work environment, and we’re very thankful to (learn from) an organization that clearly believes people are important, that people matter and that our people are paramount and critical.”
‘They got on board with it’
‘They got on board with it’
As Black & Veatch’s vice president of environmental safety, health and security, John Johnson said sharing the company’s decades of safety knowledge was a no-brainer, given that many Memphis-area contractors on the job “are relatively small and don’t have very well-defined safety and health” protocols.
“Generally speaking,” said Bently Green, a Black & Veatch associate vice president who manages the Memphis SSO program, “the end users of this training have a newfound sense of why we focus on safety, and they got on board with it. It just makes things run much smoother and safer.”
Elizabeth Rodgers, Environmental, Health, Safety & Security Manager in Black & Veatch’s water business, credits the training with fostering teamwork and better quality, reducing prospects of mistakes on the neighborhood-by-neighborhood push to assess and rehab Memphis’ wastewater and sewer infrastructure. The city’s system is sprawling, involving 2,800 miles of sewers, many installed more than a century ago and now deteriorating.
Spawned by a 2012 consent decree between the city and environmental regulators, the work strives to stifle the frequency of overflows of sewage onto streets, yards, streams and into basements in Tennessee’s biggest city. Like many cities, Memphis has an aging wastewater collection and transmission system, from pipes to pumping stations. Sewers have degenerated. Pipes have cracked, and joints have parted. Corrosion has eaten away at the conduits and manhole covers.
Modernizing it all by patching what’s broken or replacing the unfixable is inherently dangerous, considering the need for crews to work in trenches or in confined spaces. All of that and more gets addressed in awareness training by Black & Veatch, chosen to manage the Memphis program because of its regional experience, local commitment, and laudable record in carrying out similar large programs.
When it comes to pressing field safety, Johnson said, “we won’t turn away anybody willing to dedicate the time of their people to do this coursework,” all accredited by the National Center for Construction Education and Research with a splash of Black & Veatch expectations.
Those who tackle the sessions get more than the payoff of knowing best practices; they automatically qualify to sit for “safety trained supervisor” certification by the Board of Certified Safety Professionals – widely considered the world’s gold standard in the field.
“We’ve formed some strong relationships with local contractors, and we’ve helped them to grow through communicating the benefits of safety and health and how financially it’s natural to spend time and resources educating people on safety-related matters,” Rodgers said. “We’re extremely pleased whenever a project invites us to come in and put on a session.”
Contact us to learn more about what we can do for you.
The annual Strategic Directions Report series offers analysis and insights into key issues and trends facing the smart cities and utilities, electric, natural gas, and water utility sectors.
It was roughly a decade ago when the initial introduction of floating liquefied natural gas (FLNG) solutions sought to help bring uneconomic gas reserves offshore, such as those in remote locations, to the market. Over the past few years, however, we’ve watched as offshore FLNG capabilities have moved closer to the mainland, offering a very flexible and economical solution to operators looking to offload their supply around the world.
Major energy shifts are afoot, and the United States will play a critical role going forward. The EIA projects that by 2022, the U.S. will become a net energy exporter, according to its newly released Annual Energy Outlook 2018. For natural gas, this shift will happen even earlier, around 2020, the EIA says.
As if the persistent low-price environment wasn’t enough, rampant natural gas production in the Appalachian and Permian Basins is ramping up concern that pipeline take-away capacity can’t keep up. This comes as the United States natural gas industry prepares to enter one of its strongest growth periods to date, driven by increasing global demand for low cost natural gas supplies and growing domestic demand for cleaner energy sources.
Strong economic growth, low gas prices and environmental goals are transforming natural gas demand in Southeast Asia.
The city of Escondido, Calif., had converging challenges. It had too much wastewater and not enough potable water. The answer: water reuse.
Black & Veatch is the designer and builder of a new, $35 million solids treatment system for the Liverpool Wastewater Treatment Plant in Medina County, Ohio. The system provides energy performance savings and other sustainable benefits through an innovative Design-Build Performance Contract. As a result, the county expects to be able to pay for the new system without increasing customer rates.
The Ulu Pandan Wastewater Treatement Demonstration Center has a treatment capacity of 12,500m3/day, and serves to test advanced water treatment technologies before deploying them on a larger scale at Tuas Water Reclamation Plant in the future.
A large utility located in the Midwest needed to build a low volume wastewater (LVW) treatment system to improve to two of its coal-burning plants necessitated by the Coal Combustion Residuals (CCR) rule.
Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) is serious about their commitment to safe and reliable operations. To bolster their residential natural gas meter protection efforts, BGE partnered with Black & Veatch on an integrated plan to relocate and safeguard meters for more than 16,000 natural gas customers in the Baltimore, Maryland, region.