Pragmatic 13: Safety, Safety Everywhere

17 February, 2014


John and Ben discuss ways to take reasonable but meaningful safety precautions in the workplace, and around the home.

Transcript available
[MUSIC] This is Pragmatic, a weekly discussion show contemplating the practical application of technology. Blowing the real-world trade-offs, we look at how great ideas are transformed into products and services that can change our lives. Nothing is as simple as it seems. This episode of Pragmatic is sponsored by Typeform. Typeform makes it easy to build and share beautifully designed online forms, combining human creativity with the power of modern cross-device web technology to create new ways of asking questions online. They're uniquely designed to act like actual human conversation, one question at a time without what's coming up next distracting you. And the result is awesome. For a limited time, Typeform is offering a three month free trial of their new Typeform Pro service. We'll talk a little more about that later on in the show. I'm your host, Ben Alexander, and my co-host is John Chidjie. How you doing, Jack? I'm doing very well, Ben. How you doing? Doing well. Fantastic. So I've been trialing for the last couple of weeks some cryptic clues about the topics that are going to be on the show in a few days' time, which is now. And I realized that I sort of prefaced them as being a riddle. The truth is that I'm a little-- I have in my past sort of been somewhat of a crossword addict. and now in recovery. And I also played with cryptic crosswords, which I've since sort of learned is less of an international thing than I thought it was. As a result, it's quite possible that even though I reframe them as cryptic clues, that perhaps the way I'm framing them is not such an international sort of flavor that I would have expected, what I was hoping. But that's okay. I mean, you live and learn these things, so that's fine. In the end, I'm going to ask anyone in the chat room right now. We have some people in the chat room. Did any of you actually guess what the topic for today is? And I'll give you a minute to respond because it's about a little bit of a delay there. So while I'm waiting to hear a response. I was going to say, John, I don't know if you've talked to other people about it, too. And I did read through that article and it's, I think over here, they're often referred to as British style crosswords. And I wasn't familiar with them beyond a couple of the styles, which I'd kind of seen that were similar that showed up in the Akron Beacon Journal, but I have no idea if they're more popular elsewhere. But anyways, I think they are kind of cool. They're just- I wasn't sure what it was. Yeah, I guess the problem I've got is that I don't want to put out, you know, riddles or clues that are, you know, such a small subset of the audience is going to listen and say, what the heck? I have no idea what the hell he's on about. He sniffed some kind of glue this morning or whatever. Yeah, there has to be some kind of level of, you know, "Oh yeah, this is kind of interesting. I've seen... I know what he's getting at and oh yeah, I've figured it out" kind of thing. Just a little bit more, a little bit more fun. But that's okay. It's fine. We'll play with it and see. But in any case, one suggestion, Mount Kilimanjaro. No, I'm afraid that's not it. And the other one, which is is a rather good one actually, was regarding the degrees Celsius versus Fahrenheit. And whilst I'd love to talk about that and which is the one true scale, I'm not going to touch that one with a 10 foot barge pole. I'll leave that alone. Hey? Sorry? Rankin? Rankin? Kelvin? No? I don't know. Rankin is the really crazy one. I had never even heard of it. It's terrible. Okay. So what's that like the boiling point of your skin or something? It's um... I don't know. Yeah, actually I didn't even know it existed until I found it as a... one of the optional scales in Dark Skies. Okay. Yeah. And it was actually referred to as... if you wanted your temperatures in Kelvin you were weird, if you wanted it in Rankine you were very weird. Okay. It was there. Fantastic. Well, there you go. That's my new little I had no idea about that. Thermodynamic jokes. Ah, entropy. Ah, just, the jokes just keep getting more and more out of control. A temperature of -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit is exactly equal to 0 degrees Rankine, but the Rankine degree is defined as equal to 1 degree Fahrenheit rather than 1 degree Celsius used by the Kelvin scale, so. That's kind of like a Kelvin scale but with Fahrenheit or something. Right. Cool. Those are Wikipedia. Well, Wikipedia is the font of all knowledge. Email John. It's got to be. I know I link to Wikipedia quite a bit. But anyway, okay. So focus. Today we're going to be talking about safety. Safety, safety everywhere. And we'll get into that in just a minute because I've realized that I haven't said my thank yous and I wanted to make sure that I had a few specifics to thank today. So, again, the usual thank yous to everyone on Twitter and for all the great feedback. all the great feedback. I really do appreciate it. And it always brightens my day when some people come back and say that they like the show and I just, spurs me to want to keep going. So thank you very much for that. It really is appreciated. Also a few more emails this week. Again, thank you. And I've been really behind the eight ball this week trying to get my Statomic version of Tech Distortion done. And it is going up hell or high water tomorrow. So tomorrow evening. So by the time this podcast is released out on iTunes and so on, then hopefully it'll be up and then yeah, feel free to tell me everything that's wrong with it. Okay, also I wanna say a special thanks to Russell F. I only know that that's who he is. Back in early January, he wrote a piece about power consumption of some of his computer equipment, sort of similar to how I discussed a method of doing that with an adapter that I'd purchased for cheap off eBay. and anyway, he reported his Mac mini power consumption is about 12 watts idle, sort of the figure that I'd heard, but I'm still really keen to see what happens with Haswell. So we'll wait and see what happens with Apple later this year for that. So thank you very much, Russell, appreciate that. And also, sorry, I missed that. It was the article was about four weeks ago. So yeah, Mr. Slow, I missed that one. So unbelievably this week, a record, we've had six iTunes reviews in seven days and each of them is from a different country. So it's sort of blowing my mind. Just to quickly run through them, thanks to, and again, apologies if I mispronounce your name, I'm trying. Feel free to correct me and I will correct myself later on if that's the case. So thanks to Kena Kamberuglu from Turkey, Viper Mark from Australia. And I'd like to add, I did spend seven months living in New South Wales, so there. Dark JC from Canada, Eglah H from Austria, Berodriguez from Brazil and Michel Ducantel from France. So thank you all of you for those wonderful reviews and iTunes, I really am blown away by the nice words. So thank you so much. And without further ado, I think we should get stuck into the actual topic. So, safety, safety everywhere. So what does safety mean to you Ben? Um, safety... Hats. Art hats. Safety belts. Training wheels. Training wheels? Seatbelts. Yeah, good one, seatbelts, yes. It's a very broad topic, and I want to try and narrow it down to areas that particularly bug me. I'm in a position where I kind of... I'm in a position where I go to construction sites semi-regularly and I go to industrial locations semi-regularly and I'm exposed to this safety stuff all the time. But there's a lot of things that we can take away from that and take to our personal lives. So I don't want to focus too much on the industrial side. I want to talk to people more about the things that they can do and to recognize risks where they see them and to try and eliminate those risks or at least reduce them. So the first and most obvious place to start is, well, in the industry, the lingo is PPE, which stands for personal protective equipment. And PPE is the most mundane of things. So you'll have clothing, you'll have, you know, like gloves, protective glasses, face shields or face masks, like dust for your nose and your mouth. And of course, as you said, hard hats. Much less common in your own private household, I suppose. But in any case, I want to start talking about clothing. Now, this may sound a bit strange, but stick with me. The thing with clothing is that ever since they came up with rayon and nylon and all these wonderful, wonderful wonder fabrics, they're all artificial. The problem with them is that when they get hot, if they catch on fire or they get hot enough, they literally melt. And when they do melt, they actually melt and bond to your skin. They literally melt into your body. It's really actually quite horrible. So when you're working in an environment where it's possible that you could, for example, if you're working at a petrol station, service station, gas station, any of those, same thing, then you would be wearing something that is flame retardant of some kind. And the simplest way of doing a flame retardant, the most traditional way, is a more natural fibre. So, cotton is generally being preferred. So, a lot of people will be wearing long sleeve shirts, long pants, and they'll be made out of cotton predominantly. In more recent times, they tend to go with a poly cotton blend, but it's still, the majority of it is still cotton. There is, of course, always a really ridiculously expensive super flame retardant one. And the one that's in fashion at the moment, or the most popular one at the moment, is something called Nomex. It's actually made by DuPont, and I'd love to tell you everything that was in it, but it is a little bit proprietary and it's also expensive. That's like a race car driver suit, right? That sort of thing, yes. However, those sorts of suits now are starting to become prevalent in the oil and gas industry. So I'm sort of, yeah, dear, how should I put this? 'Cause I'm currently working in the oil and gas space, there's a lot of, I'm getting a lot of the safety messages like fire retardant clothing and everything, but in the water and wastewater space and it's less prevalent, you'll still get poly cottons and it's still perfectly acceptable and perfectly fine. The one thing you don't wanna do is put on all cotton because all cotton actually will sustain its own flame, which is not, kind of not really what you're going for. So it's always good to go for that. And for the average person in the house, you're looking at, jeans are perfect. So jeans have actually really good PPE for around the house. But if you're gonna wear them to protect you against those sorts of things, probably not your good pair of jeans. Question from the chat room, what about wool? That's actually a good one. Wool is quite resistant, but the problem with wool is that it's also, there's issues with static electricity, which can also be a problem. The experiment with the wool and the Perspex rod, it's like rub against each other and you do the whole electrostatic thing. But in any case, wool still is quite a good insulator and it doesn't burn, rather like the way cotton generally doesn't burn. But still it's a good point, but it's not as popular. It may just also be that it's more expensive than polycotton. That could be the other reason. So, good question from Clinton in the chat room. Thanks, mate. So, one of the things that you come across in the industry is you'll come across the horror stories. And horror stories help you to kind of focus and realize that this stuff is actually serious. And you may think to yourself, "Well, how does this apply to me?" I mean, if you go and get a jerry cans worth of fuel and you're pouring that into your mower or if you've got a whippersnapper, line trim or whatever you want to call it. You know, honestly, I would be wearing some degree of PPE in case something goes wrong. You don't want, if that catches fire, you don't want that blowing up in your face. If you're only wearing short sleeves and shorts, then, yeah, that's going to burn. You're going to burn and it's going to cause a lot of damage. And there's a gentleman by the name of Charlie Moorcraft, and he's somewhat famous for less than desirable reasons insofar that he was severely injured at work. There's a link in the show notes. I strongly recommend that you read his story. And what he does is he's now a motivational speaker. He was one of the guys that worked in the petroleum industry and he was all very, you know, whatever about safety, like personal protective equipment. And since we're talking about clothing, that's what I'm talking about at the moment. So, So, his issue was that the company supplied him PPE. He had to wear it and it was all long sleeve shirts and everything. And of course, it's hot there in the middle of summer, like it is wherever you are in summer on the world, in the world pretty much. Although I don't know how hot it gets in the North Pole in summer. But anyway, point is that he decided to be cool and he got sick of rolling his sleeves up, which he shouldn't have done, but he did it anyway. He actually cut the sleeves off. So these were company provided clothing that he modified because he was sick of being hot and he didn't think that the whole safety thing was worth mentioning. Oh, it's not going to happen to me kind of attitude. Long story short, there was an accident and he got severe burns to many parts of his body. Oddly enough, the parts of his body that didn't get burnt were the parts that were covered by the clothing. So, the scars on his arms are absolutely unbelievable. And he was out of action for years in recovery. And I think he had something like 50 operations. Yeah, read the article for the details, but it's terrible. Certainly, it's true that in a home environment, you're not exposed to that kind of situation very regularly, whereas he was. So, obviously, the frequency of exposure is going to push up the probability that you're going to have an event. However, bottom line, it's something that people do not consider and they really should. So, protective glasses. So, the point of protective glasses is not glasses. I've heard that so many times. It's irritating. And normal glasses, especially trendy glasses, like, you know, the really narrow, thin ones or, yeah, just normal spectacles, right? Corrective lenses. They're not safety glasses. And no matter how many times someone says, oh, but I'm wearing glasses, it's okay. Safety glasses wrap around the side of your eyes and they stop debris from getting into your eyeballs. That's the point of them. So, you know, they're hot, especially in summer. They're annoying, but you know what? They'll stop you from losing your eyesight. And last time I checked, you get two eyes. And if they get damaged, then you're out of luck. So, you know, we're not quite at Geordie La Forge yet with a visor. So, you know, and anything you're doing, anything at all that has debris, and that includes things like, when I say whippersnipper and line trimmer, you know what I'm talking about? Yeah, cool. Weedwhacker. Yeah, weedwhacker. Thank you. Great. I just want to make sure I'm using the right lingo for different parts of the world. And those things, they kick up a lot of debris, you know, little bits of dirt, little bits of grass, you know, or even small rocks, you know, they're actually quite a violent sort of machine, considering the cutting section of it, there's like a pithy little cover at the back, you know, like it's a little angled bit of plastic and, you know, it's like that's not going to stop anything from getting through. I mean, come on, really? It's going to deflect it a little bit. Yeah, you might be. Yeah, maybe it'll deflect. Maybe it won't. I mean, in the end, it's just, good God. So anyway, look, I guess it's the token effort, right? But the problem is, how do you encapsulate it? if you encapsulate it, it becomes a motor mower, in which case, well, it's the wrong tool for the job. But anyway, the point is that those sorts of glasses will stop that getting in your eyes. If you're using a grinder, an angle grinder, another good example, a bench grinder, any of those sorts of things. If you're using a drill, a high-speed drill, as drills go into any material, they are going to kick out debris. And most of the time, it's going to powderize and accumulate down in the bottom of the hole and then down on the floor, you know, gravity being what gravity is. But the truth is that if it's metallic or, you know, sometimes certain hardwoods, it can still kick stuff out at you and it can still get you in the face, you know. So, it's stuff like that, you know. You should be using, you know, you should be using protective glasses. And the other thing you can do from that if you don't like protective glasses is a full-on face shield, which is, you know, the ones they saw, like, they sit on your head like a hat and they've got like a pivot point just above your ears and you can lift the entire Perspex mask up and you can lower the Perspex mask down and it's a curved clear piece of Perspex and it covers your entire face all the way around to your ears. I mean that's ideal, it's heavier, bulkier, it's even less comfortable but what that does is that'll protect your entire face from debris. So in that case you you won't get in your mouth or up your nose or you won't get cuts on your face or anything like that. So, that's just that's another example of PPE. Gloves, you know, people underestimate just how important their hands are. We use our hands for everything that we do pretty much. I mean, beyond the obvious, if you're a geek typing on a keyboard or holding a smartphone or I mean, go beyond that. It's like opening a door, making a phone call, driving a car. pushing the button just to get on and off, to get into a lift or holding onto a railing when you're going up and down stairs. And you use your hands for everything. And yet, how many people do you know that put gloves on when they're out operating mowers and drills and so on in the yard? They just, they don't. And people really should, because if you cut your hand, it's gonna take a while to heal because that surface on your hand is always in use, always in motion, very sensitive as well, lots of nerve ending, so it's generally going to sting. So, you know, you should take better care of your hands with gloves. And, you know, same thing with petrol. Another example is WD-40. You guys have got WD-40 over there? - Oh yeah. - So WD-40 is, it's a highly toxic little concoction. And if you read through the instructions on it, it says use in a well-ventilated area and you're supposed to have gloves on, you're supposed to have long sleeve, You're not supposed to get this stuff on your skin. Eye protection. Like PB Blaster? Like for loosening up? I mean, like, it's like serious, the serious version of that for taking off rusty car parts and stuff like that? Yeah, sure. Oh my god, yeah. Yeah. Don't want any of that in your eyes. It's bad news. Yeah, it's horrible, horrible stuff. I mean, it does a great job at what it does, sure. But what it does is melt through, melt through exhaust parts that have been exposed to wintry wintry conditions for years, not going to be so great on your skin. Someone, Clinton in the chat room has just admitted to using WD-40 to clean grease off his hands. Naughty Clinton, please don't do that. The thing is that all of this stuff, people need to be aware of it. And they need to be able to have access, they need to have access to this sort of PPE. And honestly, it's really not that expensive and you should go out and get it. Any hardware store will have it. So AI Comb Depot will have all of this stuff. So anyway, okay. I want to talk a little bit more about my experience and sort of my evolution, really, I guess, as it were, particularly about whippersnippers, brush cutters, weed whackers. So, when I was a kid, I was a teenager at the point I was allowed to use the whipper snipper and started taking care of the yard. At that point in time, I was a teenager and it's not like I had the best role model. The role model I had was my grandfather and he- and I don't mean anything, that came out badly. I don't mean, I'm not speaking ill of my grandfather, but he was of the generation where there was no safety anything. Right? So, this is all, there was just none of that. So, he fought in the Second World War and he was very much a just get in, get it done, get out kind of mentality. And that was not just him, it was very typical of that generation. And there's still a lot of people out there like that. And that's okay. It's just that I was never given any instruction at all on safety precautions to be taken. So, I would start off being a teenager and I would, first of all, I'd use a whip snipper with my sneakers. Second of all, I would wear shorts. No, I had glasses, of course, and they were big dorky glasses. I look at the photos of myself at that age and cringe, but nevermind, that's okay, I guess. I hope I've developed taste. I don't know if I have. It's probably, I'm not really sure. Anyhow, I guess the point is that minimal, if any, eye protection. And so I wasn't even wearing a long sleeve shirt either. So I was basically none of those safety precautions that I just mentioned, no gloves, no nothing. I wasn't wearing any of them. Not a single thing. And I would come in from doing the yard and it was a quarter, well, somewhere between quarter and a half acre block in size. So reasonable size, but not tiny by any means, but also not as big as the block I'm living on now. But the point is that my legs would be covered in cuts. Very, very small cuts, you know, like paper cuts. Some of them would be a little bit bigger, but bottom line, it was just, yeah, you know, I would come in injured. And most of the time, you just wouldn't bother with it. you'd be fine, no big deal. And within a few days, the cuts would have healed, that was the end of it. But every now and then, one would get infected and then you'd have to put cream and a bandaid or whatever else, it'd be sore for a week and then it'd be all good. Now, I'm not sort of sucking or crying about it, of course, 'cause that'd be definitely not a manly thing to do. But the point is that by not taking any safety precautions whatsoever, I had, let's say every fifth time, let's say roughly, I had about a week's worth of recovery due to a small infection in one of the cuts in my legs. Now, is that a big deal? I don't know. But the point is, fast forward to today. And now, when I do the whippersnapping, I always wear my work boots. That is to say my steel cap work boots, which are made of thick leather and chemically hardened soles, and obviously the steel cap. Ain't no way that that line cord is ever going to cut through those boots. The next thing of course is I'm wearing my drill pants, cotton drill pants, my long sleeve shirt from one of the companies I used to work for. And yeah, I'm wearing all of this stuff and eye protection and over the top of my glasses, actually I tend not to, I tend to put my contacts in when I do it. But the point is that I'm wearing all of this stuff now. So it takes another, let's say, I don't know, realistically another three or four minutes. I've still got to put shorts on, still got to put a shirt on, but it's just a little bit more effort to put that extra stuff on. But it's really not a huge investment. And at the end of it all, when I strip off and I'm cooling down afterwards, I'm not injured. But the worst I've got is that horrible industrial vibration feeling in my hands from holding the damn thing because they vibrate like hell. I forgot to mention hearing protection as well. So that's the whole point is that people, a lot of people shortcut straight to that, right, let's go do the mowing, fire it up, let's go. Take a few more minutes, put on the right PP before you do it and you'll come away less injured. And even if it's that once every five times that you get an infection from one of the cuts or something, seriously, just do it. It's worth it. It's an investment. One of the other things that I've seen in the last 25, 30 years or so is the evolution of the push mowers. When I was a kid, it was very common for push mowers to simply have an open back. And the open back, you would simply hook on the, it'd hook on your grass catcher, and you'd mow around the yard and it would, well, oddly catch the grass. But if you took it off, for whatever reason, it was just there and it was open. It's all like a little deflecting guard thingy, but frankly, not so much. It wasn't- Yeah, there was no actual stone guard there. It was sort of an assumed thing that you would like, you know, it wasn't- There was no stone guard. It was like there was an exit at the side and that was it. So you could kick out stones and everything and they would just go flying out the side. And what's happened is that as I was growing up, I saw them starting to add stone guards to these things. And the stone guards got right down low, right down to the grass level, which means when you push them, there's a little bit more friction in some cases. And but the idea is if you kick a stone out, it hits the stone guard. It doesn't go any further or anything else that's on the, you know, on the ground that you might mow over like a roller skate or something. Now, there's a vague Simpsons reference. Anyhow, the thing is that that sort of attitude is now becoming much more prevalent. So you're going to see a lot more guards. So like when you see the tractors on the side of the freeways, the interstates and highways and so on, and they're doing the mowing, they'll have the chains down the back of the big cutting attachments. And that's to stop stones from kicking up. But I remember distinctly when I was a kid, there were no such things. So this sort of evolution of, OK, well, we recognize that there's a simple way of overcoming this issue. So they're building more of that safety into the devices where they can. Sometimes it can be annoying, but you know what? The point is that it's saving someone from being injured and that's what matters. We had a mulching lawn growing up. Everything just went straight down unless it was kind of propellable enough for us to bounce back off the ground and up out. It was kind of bad because it ended up just leaving tons of grass clippings all over the lawn and didn't really look that great. But yeah, I mean, the one we have now is the, you know, has the big bag to catch everything and Occasionally just had that had that off for a minute either because it was full and I just always need to do a little bit and Yeah, it's amazing how the power it'll propel things out there with but um, I Missed the mulching one to be honest. That was easy Cool. Well, the other thing is of course And I know I've had done a whole episode on noise, but just a quick note here. Mowers and whippersnippers, they make a fair bit of noise and the worst part of it is they're quite close to your ear, especially whippersnipper where the engine is usually up at about shoulder height. It's quite close to your ear. It'd be somewhere between one to two feet from your ear. So, less than a metre, that's pretty close. So, you're going to hear that pretty loud. pretty loud. If they're 85, 89 dBA, then you should have to be wearing hearing protection. Otherwise, you use that for an hour. If I'm doing the edges around my yard, it can take about 40, 45 minutes to do them all because it's an acre. It's like quite a... So, it's like 400 and... Hang on. It's like 120... I'm doing math in my head. Look, it's a fair few meters anyway. It's a fairly long fence line plus around the house, plus around the swing set, plus around the shed. - A little too straight, a few feet away from your ears the whole time. - Exactly. So you should be wearing hearing protection. No question, no doubt. Although I'm reasonably sure that my tinnitus did not come from that. Yeah, I am stupid, listening to music too damn loud. Anyway, but that's fine. So, actually it's not fine, but it's done now. So moving on with life. Okay, enclosed footwear, that's kind of obvious, but I even saw people when I was growing up, when they're mowing in their thongs, you know, flip flops. And I just couldn't believe it. But now, thinking back now, you know, I keep thinking about motorcycles, right? Yeah, I used to ride and I was usually pretty good about here. I mean, I didn't I didn't have like a full, full leather set, but I had, you know, I had. I don't know, Kevlar type pants, whatever, and the boots, everything, I'll see people going around with obviously a helmet, right? But I went over the handlebars once and if I hadn't had that, I've been done. But I'll see people all the time with shorts on and flip flops. And so they got their legs hanging there inches away from the exhaust pipe. And it just, you know what you're talking about, these little injuries you'd get all the time, as opposed to, you know, some big catastrophic things like, yeah, that adds up. Absolutely. Every time you roll the dice, every time you, yeah, yeah, every time you don't wear some form of protection, you're increasing the odds that you're going to do some permanent long-term damage. Or if you've got an issue, you know, if it, let, let's say that you, you know, use the, use the mower once a, let's use a whippersnapper for once, once a month. Oh, come on, realistically. Yeah. Okay. Let's say once a month. So that's 12 times a year. And all it takes is one event in every 50, you're gonna have one happen in that decade. Something is gonna happen, you're gonna get something kick up into your eye and maybe get some eye damage. So it's gonna be that one time that you don't wear a face shield. So you should wear a face shield every time you should wear all your PPE when you're doing this. And I'm sorry, I get so used to saying PPE, personal protective equipment. But the next one I just wanted to quickly talk about was when you're painting in the house, if you're sanding down, always wear a dust mask because believe me, you do not want paint dust in your lungs, in your nose or anything like that. And when you are painting, it's gotta be well-ventilated because the fumes of that stuff is quite bad and toxic. So that's just sort of some of the little ones that I'd like to cover. But before I go on, I was just wondering if you could tell us a little bit more about Typeform. - Yeah, Typeform is a solution for the big problem of gathering data on your website. Forms are a key component of doing business online, but up till now they've meant a lot of work to design, configure, and administer. And the results have usually been pretty unflattering. There are other form builders out there that take care of some of the problems. They make it easier to get something basic up, but creating something great is still hard. Typeform is the only form builder that allows you to get unlimited responses for free. As many questions as you want, as many answers as you get, Typeform doesn't limit your interaction. Typeforms are beautifully designed and have cross-platform compatibility baked in. They're tailored to look and work differently on desktops, on smartphones, and on tablets. Design is about how it works and typeforms are built to work, regardless of the device. The platform itself is a joy to use, both as a customer creating a typeform and a user interacting with one. The UI is sexy, clean, and fast, and design even complex series of questions is made simple through their dashboard. UX is focused on asking and answering one question at a time, just like real human conversation. So it doesn't feel overwhelming and nobody gets lost looking at what's coming up next. Typeform champions good user experience and design. This helps you create a space in which users will be more willing to answer and more likely to give honest answers. From customer feedback and surveys to contest and landing pages, event organization in the classroom, Typeform lets your imagination fly. People are using Typeforms in a huge variety of ways to make online interactive stories, holiday cards, team presentations, avatar creation, the list goes on and on. For a limited time, Typeform is offering our listeners a three-month free trial of their new Typeform Pro service. Just sign up at and upgrade to the Pro plan from the dashboard. Make sure to use the coupon code FIATLUX to get your free three months. Thank you to Typeform for sponsoring the show and for making it easier for people to get to know each other better. It's awesome. So, John, what you were just talking about there, I'm thinking about this bottle that of what is called liquid fire. Do you guys have that there? Do you have liquid fire? Possibly under a different name. What is it exactly? I have no idea what it actually is, but it's supposed to. Well, it's designed to clear out clogged pipes. And it's one of the things that like- Or like Drano. like Drano, but so it's a big red bottle and it comes in a plastic bag that, you know, it's like real thick plastic too. It's not just like, it's not just like saran wrap and the entire, I mean, I'm talking like eight, nine paragraphs of warning on the side and a little booklet and it basically, you know, it's basically, yeah, you need to have a full mask on, you need to have gloves, you They even suggest having like a bucket or some sort of tub to put over the drain after you pour this stuff down. And we got it because our tub upstairs is just really rusted and it's clogged up and bad. You know, we've tried snaking it out, we've tried plunging it, we had a plumber come over and look at it. He actually suggested this, so we got it. And I looked at it and the more I kept reading about this thing, I'm just like, "Yeah, hey and I don't I don't really think I want to do this. I'm a little scared. And I looked it up online. I found this great YouTube video of this guy talking about it and this stuff actually like if the pipes are too rusted, it will just eat through them. It's just I'm not sure what kind of what it is, but it's not hydrochloric acid. It's one of the bad ones, It's going to burn right through anything. And it'll actually, yeah, if your pipes are too rusted, it will just eat right through them and you'll end up having just water just pouring down into your basement. Yeah, too much of a good thing. A little bit of acid is good, but too much is like... Yeah, and I'm sure it's fine if you know what you're doing, but it is that kind of thing where, like, you don't... you're not walking around kind of thinking about safety and day-to-day affairs and then you run into something like that. It's like, oh, I don't even have... Like I was going around like, well, I'll use these gloves and I don't have a full face mask, but I've got some aviator glasses, will that work? Yeah, that's the problem. No, so we still have kind of a clogged up job at the moment. It's not good. Well, the thing is, with that sort of stuff in particular, I'd be using gloves and I'd be using safety glasses and I'd be making sure it's well ventilated. It is a pain in the neck, I will admit, with that stuff. And, you know, it's a shame snaking it out didn't work. But in any case- Let's just pay a professional. Yeah. Yeah. Sometimes it's better to do that. Although I wondered at first if it was just if essentially that the warnings were a form of marketing in disguise, but the more I read about it, I decided that was not the case. This is apparently serious stuff. Like you actually have to ask for it at the counter. So. I will admit there is a certain degree of the attitude of all the warnings on the side of a product are there for the stupid people. You know, it's someone in some place and, you know, wherever, back town, wherever, you know, they stuck the power drill in their eyeball. Therefore, you know, in the instruction, there's a little instruction number 5712 says you should not insert the drill into your eyeball. And I think a lot of people look at the warnings on products and to some extent dismiss them on the basis that, well, you know, it's being sold in the supermarket. You know, it's not, it couldn't be that, it's not really that dangerous. It's just, it's like, it's in the supermarket. Anything really dangerous, they wouldn't let me buy that over the counter. And these warnings, well, you know, they're just for people that don't know what they're doing. And honestly, geez, just read the warnings. I mean, yeah, that's my advice. But anyway, all right, look, the next thing I really wanted to quickly talk about before we move on to the next main section is the simple things, the simple, simple ideas. I mean, I've been talking about yard work, okay? So let's figure out yard work just for a minute. Well, just maybe a little bit briefly. The way you hang your tools, if you hang your tools, some people are really organized with their sheds. I wish I was one of those people, but one day I will be. And when I do, you always hang the tool with the heaviest part of it as close to the ground as possible. So if you've got an ax, obviously the head of the ax is the heaviest part. So you're going to hang it so that that is actually pointing down closest to the ground. Because what you're trying to do is, If that falls off the side of the shed or wherever it's hung up on, if it falls off, then it's got the minimum amount of potential energy to cause any damage. If you hang it up the other way with the axe head at the top and it falls off, it's got a lot more energy before it hits the ground. And if you're nearby when that happens, that's going to cause you a much bigger injury. Simple, simple idea like that. You know, it's something to think about. It works for all sorts of things, axes, rakes, brooms, all that stuff. Simple, silly things. People don't even think about it. Yeah, I'm thinking about it now, like all our stuff is hung up the other way. Yeah, this is exactly. Now, I mean, it may only happen once in 10 years, but such a simple idea like that. And it's still not a guarantee that you're going to get your toes crushed or something by an axe that's falling a few inches. But, you know, realistically, no, it's not going to cause a problem. But if you had it the other way around, it did. You might just be surprised how much damage it can do. But the obvious other ones are things like sharp corners around the house, especially if you've got kids, keeping knives in a safe drawer that's difficult to reach, difficult to get at, putting your tools away when you're done with them, leaving electric tools lying around. I mean, I'm in a case with my kids where if I'm working on a job and I stop to have lunch, I actually stop and have lunch right next to where I'm doing my work. So then I make sure the kids don't wander up and, "Oh, daddy left the power drill out." And, "Oh, this is fun." And yeah, so you have to be careful. And honestly, yeah, secure your work site if you're leaving it for any period of time, especially if you've got kids wandering around. But when you're done, put the tools away. Otherwise, people will come along and bump them, break them, or hurt themselves, or kids will play with them thinking that they're fun. And then, yeah, you'll be up at the hospital with a drill implanted in their leg or something horrible. So that's general tidiness. People say, "Well, a tidy desk is the sign of a sick mind." But frankly, no, a tidy work environment of any kind, even in your house, is much better for safety, hands down. So being tidy is a good thing. Okay, so the next big topic is confined spaces. So what do you think of as a confined space, Ben? Have you heard the terminology before? Yeah, usually when painting or dealing with solvents or anything. And yeah, from my experience with that is anything without, you know, if you're in your house, if you don't have every single window open, your house is a confined space. Well, that's the extremist perspective and that's, and I kind of see where that comes from, but it gets the general idea. The technical definition of a confined space has evolved in the last couple of decades, since I've been aware of it anyway, to the point at which now where it's any area that people will habitate or occupy, where the airflow through the room is not consistent, and where toxins, gases or liquids can accumulate. So the problem is, of course, you would say, okay, because the extremist definition like you just said, oh, you close all the windows in your house, you're in a confined space, right? Well, yes and no. If your house doesn't have any toxic chemicals or gases in it, then technically, no, it's not a confined space because there's no opportunity for things to go wrong so much. But then again, you know, that's also a simplistic simplification because, you know, you set something on fire or you spill, you know, some kerosene or something in the house when you're cleaning, and that could then create an issue. create an issue. Like that bathroom where I was going to use the liquid fire is the door in and a pretty small window that doesn't really even open all the way. Absolutely, yes, exactly. So if you're going to be overwhelmed by fumes, that's one thing. But the most critical thing for us humans is oxygen. So when I'm talking about the following bit about confined spaces, I'm going to focus primarily on oxygen. And there's good reasons for that. But the most common, truly confined spaces are the ones that are, how should I say, the ones that are most likely to kill you are things like tanks, sewers, manholes, large drains, even stormwater drains. And you may think, well, I don't go into a tank. I don't even have a tank. And I don't mean an army tank. I mean, like a water tank. I know, I know. Hear it. No, no. Another episode. Actually, I don't know much about tanks, so there probably never will be in a tank episode. But anyway, yeah, so no tanks like water tanks, for example. So sometimes they'll have hatches and people will go inside to clean them. And if they're not prepared properly, then that's an issue. Mind you, most individuals would not do that. Then again, I've also heard of some people doing that to save money. Oh, I can clean the inside of my tank, go inside the tank and then they die. So anyhow, sewers, obviously, who's going to go crawling into a sewer? Well, you're probably not going to do that. But then again, sometimes, let's say you're walking along and you drop your keys or something and they go down a drain and you can see the drain. And all you got to do is lift that grill off and go into the drain and reach down and grab your keys, whatever. Well, what happens if that drain is too deep and you figure, oh, OK, well, I could just sort of like get in there and if I could just climb in briefly and reach down and grab the keys, I'd be all set. What kind of drain do you have that you can climb down? Well, big cities have some like that, to be honest. But the reality is-- - You know, we actually just found, I'm sorry, it's kind of off topic, but it's crazy. Some guys from the city were out in our front yard the other day. Well, not the other day, a couple months ago, but it was still warm. And apparently there is a big water cistern that runs under the front yard of our house and our neighbor's house. And it's this huge, it's from like, I don't know, I mean, the first part of the 20th century, it's a. It's a like a fresh water tank, essentially, it's not like a like a septic tank. It's just this this huge. It's a tank, we have a tank. Well, we have a tank, but I mean, these guys are climbing down in it and it's, you know, and it's like water up to like their their waists and. And yeah, so if if the water wars come, we're good. But I don't know why. I just I think it's cool. Well, we'll get to we'll get to the precautions in a minute, but I just want to sort of flesh this out in a minute because that's that's freak. They're freaking me out with that story right there. All right. Interesting point from the chat room. And I wasn't going to talk about this, but I think I will because it's pretty related. So Zach Suchek points out in the chat room that he's aware of people that climb into cement trucks and use jackhammers to clean it out. One of the things that people don't think about, and I've come across this before, is that, you know how cement mixer trucks have always got that big barrel on the back and the barrel's always spinning, spinning, spinning, spinning. It spins in one direction and it sort of, you know, falls back on itself, but if you stop it and spin it in the other direction, it's got an auger inside and that auger pushes the concrete out up the top and down the chute out the back. So, you know, pretty, pretty, and that's the way that it was done for years and years and years until they came up with this idea of pumping concrete with large concrete pumps. And that's another story altogether. But the point is that sometimes these things don't quite get rid of all their concrete in time. And some of it's fastening concrete and Odear it sets inside. So what are you gonna do? You're gonna buy yourself a whole new truck or you're gonna live with the fact that it's gonna be a bit wobbly when you put in your next load and there's a big hard solid chunk of concrete inside it. And every time it spins, the truck wobbles from side to side, probably a safety issue just there. So what they do, they climb in and they chisel this stuff out and chisel, literally chisel it out with a jackhammer, none too subtly. Now, that's the sort of environment that you really would hope that you had someone on the outside with a blower in there and a tube forcing fresh air in and potentially even with another one extracting air out, like through multiple ports and these things. And you would really hope that they had dust masks on and hearing protection because of course, jackhammer going off in an enclosed space like that, sound pressure waves would be intense. So it's really quite a dangerous little activity. So thank you for bringing that up, Zach. And my personal story on this is my very first job as an engineer, and I was still a student at the time, but they gave me quite a lot of responsibility. So it was a fantastic job. I loved it. It was working at the Stanmore Power Station. I've talked about this before. And I think it was on the last episode actually, about the vibration. So we had an issue with the slurry mixing tank. And a slurry mixing tank is this, well, oddly enough, it's a tank. And the electrostatic precipitators are essentially, sometimes I just call them precip. So what happens is once you burn off all of the coal dust and you've created all its heat, it's heated up the water and it goes to steam and makes the thing spin and you get electricity. All of that waste, that hot air has got essentially ash in it. The coals turn to ash. That ash is extremely hot. They run it down through a heat exchanger and then it goes out through these things called electrostatic precipitators. What they are is essentially a massive steel box with a bunch of probes inside them. These probes are long, solid copper spikes. they're energised to quite a high voltage and that attracts through electrostatic attraction, attracts all the particles. So then these particles, they build up and they build up, they cake on the outside of these things. And then they, ever so often, they turn them off in a sequence and sometimes there's little knockers on them, some do, some don't. And what they do is a little tap, tap, tap, tap, it all falls off and it falls down a chute at the bottom. And that's your dry. - I've seen those at the Alcoa plant in Cleveland. - Sure, yeah, absolutely. Very common, very common design. A lot of the places these days for environmental reasons have gone to bag filters and bag filters are much, much better. They let hardly any ash out at all because there's environmental requirements for particulates expelled into the atmosphere and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But anyway, the point is all this dry stuff falls down the chute at the bottom and it's a dry powder, but you can't pump a powder. So most systems you've got a choice. You either go the dry slurry or a wet slurry system. So the one at Stanwell was a wet slurry system. So the wet slurry system mixes that powder immediately with some water. So when they purify the water, there's some waste water left on the outside. They call that the chemical water. So the chemical water, it's got no use for anything. So he might as well use it to mix with the slurry, to mix with the ash to make a slurry. And then you can pump the slurry. And then I pump the slurry about four or five miles away out to the ash dam, where it literally just flows out of the ash dam and sets hard as concrete. And I literally mean as hard as concrete. And that's exactly where Zach's story brought this back to my mind. So the scene is set. We have a slurry mixing tank with two big rotating blades. This thing's huge. This thing's, you know, a good, probably about 12 meters high, maybe, well, maybe 10 meters high. And it's got a small orifice at the bottom where it goes out to the slurry mixing, to the slurry pumps, and an entry hatch at the top. And that's all it had. So what happens? Well, a circuit breaker trips. Now, what do you think happens if the mixing action in the tank stops mixing. Well, it kind of sets just like the concrete did in the truck. It sets like concrete and that's exactly what happened. It literally set. And so we came in in the morning, it was seven in the morning, something like that. And we were interns, so of course, hey, get the intern on this one. Well, what happens? It set like concrete. They couldn't restart it because obviously it was just clogged full. and they had absolutely no way of getting rid of the ash, which meant they had to write back that unit to a very low amount of power. And that was causing all sorts of problems. I had about eight hours where they had to clear this tank, otherwise they were gonna have to shut it down. So what did they do? Well, they gave us a very quick confined space refresher. We'd done confined space training a few months previously. They gave us a quick refresher and said, "There you go, get in there." So we literally were lowered into this tank with hand pneumatic chisels, and we chiseled away and chiseled away. We started by throwing it out the top, and then as we were able to clear a path down to the bottom exit, we then started to shovel it out the bottom. The problem with this water, this chemical water I mentioned, is very high in ammonia, 'cause ammonia is one of the things they use to precipitate out some of the metals in the solution. You don't want any metallics in that water that goes through the high pressure steam process. Otherwise you get buildup like you do in a kettle, a scaling it's called. So this water that was mixed in with this ash, it was very high concentrations of ammonia. So to this day, I hate confined spaces. I hate small spaces. I'm a little bit claustrophobic. This probably didn't help. And this experience, I was in there for two and a half hours and I couldn't take it anymore. was terrible. And I was chiselling away at this stuff and I just- I had to get out of there. So, to this day now, if I smell ammonia, I have flashbacks, not quite a panic attack, but certainly a very vivid flashback to that moment where I was chiselling out all of this concrete slurry. It's absolutely nightmare of a job, one of the dirtiest jobs I've ever done. So, there you go. I didn't expect to talk about that, but there you have it. It makes me think back to the automation episode. Yes. And the morality episode. Just kind of picture guys crawling around these gigantic machines. It's like the old Charlie Chaplin modern world, right? You're inside this thing. Yeah. It's terrible. It was a horrible experience. But that said, we had all the precautions except one, which I'll get to in a minute. I'll get to in a minute. (coughs) Excuse me. So, okay, look. So we've talked a little bit about confined spaces and what they are, but I want to talk a little bit about oxygen. Now, contrary to popular belief, the percentage of oxygen in the air, percentage is a ratio, which is why it's a dangerous thing. People quote, "Oh yeah, it's like, you know, "10% of the time I'm right." (laughs) Whatever, it's a ratio. So all ratios are dependent upon what it's being compared to. So 20.8% is the official-ish figure, official-ish, golly, it's not even a word. - Official-esque. - Official-esque, yeah, okay, what's wrong with that? It's gotta be some kind of anecdote. - English is a living language. - (laughs) Yeah, it's a living language I'm killing every bloody day, a little bit at a time. Anyhow, 20.8% of oxygen in the air, that's actually about the same percentage roughly till about 85 kilometres above sea level. People tend to think that there's less oxygen higher in the air? Well, yes and no. From a ratio point of view, no. The gas composition doesn't change significantly. What does change is the air pressure and because- Less air in the air. Exactly. Less air in the air. That's it. It sounds a bit weird when you say it like that, but that is exactly what it is. So the number of oxygen molecules that your lungs are able to actually draw in in a single breath is significantly reduced. So as you go up in height, in altitude, then obviously that affects how much air you can get. And when I was putting this little bit together this afternoon, I realized that one of my favorite episodes of Top Gear, the Bolivia special, did you actually see, are you a Top Gear fan at all? - Oh yeah, I'm sure we've seen it, yeah. - Well, that's the one where they get cars in the Amazon jungle, they drive their way into Chile, going high up into the Anteplano, and they drive up really, really high the side of a volcano and they basically have to stop because their cars are stopping working because there's not enough oxygen in the air and they are stopping working because there's not enough oxygen in the air. And they're just like, I can't talk this in, this is too hard. You know, it's like severe, like altitude sickness. And they're lucky that they came out of that alive because some people die doing that from complications. So in any case, their blood oxygen level got down to about 84% at that altitude. And their altitude in that episode was 17,200 feet, which is 3.26 miles. And that is 5.243 kilometres. So the air pressure up there is about half of that at sea level. Hence the issue. So because there's less air, obviously, as I said, your O2 oxygen stats, your O2 stats get very low, and that's a bad thing. The thing that's interesting about it is that your body can adapt given enough time. There are people, there's something like a million or one and a half million people, something like that, that live in that danger area, in that sort of altitude around the entire world, and they live there, they're just fine. And the reason is that, you know, you're there for long enough, your body tends to adapt. And so, there's an interesting article in Wikipedia about people that train in those sorts of environments if they're Olympic athletes. So the idea is you train in those environments and you get used to the low amounts of oxygen in the air, and although not low percentage. And then when you go down to sea level, which is where majority of the actual Olympic events are held is at some place, you know, close to sea level, then the high levels of oxygen will give you a boost, as it were, more energy. Until of course your body adapts again and then you lose that advantage. And that's a real thing, they've measured that. So, it's quite, yeah, it's quite an interesting effect. So, it's not the fact that the body can't adjust, it's that it can't adjust quickly. That's the problem. So, it's the change in the quantity of oxygen in the air at a rapid pace. That is what the problem is. Just as another little aside when I was thinking about this, as you know, I lived in Calgary for a while. One of the things that happened to me in Calgary was I grew up my whole life at about 30, 40 meters above sea level or at sea level. So, Rockhampton and the coast right, Yipuni, Mipark, all those sorts of areas, they're all quite low. They're not high upper elevations. I didn't grow up in the mountains. And even Australia has, let's face it, really not a heck of a lot of tall mountains. We barely have mountains that get snow except for the oddly named Snowy Mountains. Anyhow, the point is that when I went to Calgary, it was a kilometre above sea level. So that's like 3,438 feet. And no, I didn't do that in my head. I had that written down. So the difference in air pressure between those is around about 1,010 hectopascals at sea level. And if you want to talk in kilopascals, you can, 101 kilopascals. But for whatever reason, they just tend to quote air pressures in hectopascals in our neck of the woods, so anyway. and it's 891 hectopascals is a standard pressure in Calgary because it's a kilometre above sea level. So, I sort of noticed the difference. It was subtle but not massive enough at that high altitude. Where I did notice it though is I went skiing at Sunshine Village, which is just near Banff, And it's actually, at its base, it's about 1.7 kilometers. So it's quite a bit higher at the base. I never went to the summit, although the summit's 2.7 kilometers above sea level. And that's like nearly 9000 feet. When I was going up from the base camp up to the ski lift area, my nose spontaneously just started to bleed. And it's quite common actually when you go up to the higher altitudes that some people, the blood cells in your nose just literally spontaneously rupture because of the difference in air pressure. Not related to oxygen, but hey, there you go, just sort of throw that in there. So yeah, I spent a very uncomfortable day with nosebleeds when I was trying to learn to ski, which also didn't go well, I'd like to add, but anyhow. Okay, so getting back to Earth again, back down to sea level again, or thereabouts. Actually, how high is where you live above sea level, roughly? Do you know? We're kind of high up. It's Akron is the, in Summit County, so you can guess it's the highest point in Ohio. But I forget. Okay, well, while you're doing that, I'll just keep, I'll just keep moving. So when we're actually talking about confined spaces, what's the problem? Well, the problem is the lack of oxygen. And oxygen depletion is essentially caused through the consumption of that oxygen, either through biological processes such as the decaying of organic matter, whatever that might be, or displacement by heavier gas. And the most common one that I've come across is hydrogen sulfide. So hydrogen sulfide is more commonly known as rotten egg gas, because oddly enough, it smells like rotten eggs. And anyway, it's heavier than air and it's a byproduct of the decomposition of fecal matter, also known as SHIT. So anyhow, Sugar Honey Ice Tea. Thousand feet up. OK, still higher than me, but in any case. OK, so the problem with sewer, well, obviously that's a problem with sewers and you may think, well, I'm not going to go into too many sewers, but stormwater drains can still get hydrogen sulfide in them because sometimes people put wrong drains to the wrong places and sometimes people use wrong drains for the wrong things and sometimes people with septic systems empty them out into the wrong drains. Allah what was done in if you've seen National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, I'm not sure if you remember that movie, but he dumps the contents of their RV's waste tank into a storm sewer, which doesn't go well later on. So, and that's actually more common than people think. The idea is that you're supposed to dispose of that at a safe site, like when you leave an RV campground, you're supposed to get rid of all that waste into a special waste holding tank, which they then pump out and is treated at the sewerage treatment plant properly. But, you know, still. So it is still possible to get H2S, sorry, hydrogen sulfide in stormwater systems. So you're not safe if you think, oh, it's a stormwater, it's just rainwater, it's not a problem. So anyway, when you're working in a confined space, the oxygen levels that you should know are 19.5%. So below 19.5% at standard temperature and pressure, it is essentially considered unsafe at less than that for you to enter that space. So it must be 19.5% in order for you to safely enter and work in that space. If If you drop down to about 15%, so between, let's say 15 and 19%, you'll start to have impaired coordination. So you'll have trouble, like if you're trying to use a hammer to hit the head of a nail, you might struggle. You'll also start to experience slowing down of what you're trying to do. So if you're trying to hit the hammer, then your arm will just move slower than you're thinking, swing harder, but your actual arm will not move as quickly as you're telling it to. Between 10 and 12 percent, you'll start gasping for breath and you'll start to experience a complete, well, loss of judgment and reasoning and you'll start getting blue lips. Between 8 and 10 percent, you have a complete loss of coordination. You won't be able to stand and you'll lapse into unconsciousness. Between 6 and 8 percent, 50 percent of people will be dead in 6 minutes and everyone will be dead in 8 minutes. minutes. When you're down to four to six percent, you'll be in a coma within 40 seconds convulsing and your respiration will cease and you'll die. So oxygen kind of matters. The thing is, when people look at a confined space like a tank or a drain or whatever that they're crazily thinking of climbing into, they, especially people that aren't in the industry, they're not going to have a gas detector with them that measures oxygen and measures other toxic gases. They're just not going to have it. It's not something that people have in their tool shed and they're expensive and they need to be calibrated regularly. And it's not something that people commonly have but that's what you're supposed to have. So the idea is you drop the gas detector down into the confined space to check the quality for a period of time, pull it back out. So you just dangle it down on an end of a string. So what you got to do, pull it out and check the results. And when you go in there, you're also supposed to take the gas detector with you on your person for continuous monitoring, because the conditions could change in a moment, you don't know. The next thing you're supposed to have is you're supposed to have a harness. So you've got to wear a harness that can support your weight with a tight line connected to it, and that is connected to a recovery tripod above the confined space so that they can literally pull you out. And by they, I'm talking about the one person or two people preferably outside the confined space that are there. In Australia, we call them the cockatoos, but the point is that they are your rescuers. So you shouldn't be entering a confined space with at least one person on the outside, all of your rescue gear and a gas detector. That's what you should be doing. And industrially, that's what you have to do. You also have to have training that's renewed every six months and it's very tightly regulated because people kept dying from this. So anyway, the key message is no second victim The funny, I say it's funny, it's not funny. The terrible, tragic reality of confined spaces is that typically there's more than one victim. So you would think, you know, oh, someone's, so Farmer Joe's gone and gone into the tank, he's cleaning it out on the inside, no one's heard from him. Someone climbed up the side of the tank, has a look inside after about half an hour looking for him, He hasn't heard anything from him for half an hour, and he's lying apparently unconscious on the bottom. You think, oh, maybe he's had a stroke or a fit or bumped his head or who knows, right? I'll just climb down there and pull him out. Oops, second victim, not enough oxygen, now you're both dead. And by the time the third person comes along, usually they'll see two people lying in the bottom and most people are gonna compute and they're gonna say, well, there's two people unconscious in there. It's unlikely that they both bumped their heads, Both had strokes at exactly the same time or close together. So obviously something is wrong. I'm not going to go in there and they're going to call for more help. And by that, I mean, particularly someone like the fire brigade. You know, they're going to call someone. They're not going to climb in there. That said, triple and quadruple fatalities still happen. So no second victim. You see someone unconscious in a confined space, do not go in after them, for God's sake. Call someone else. If you've got the rescue gear and it's all attached, you should already be on the outside ready to pull them out. But if you don't have that, do not go in there. So that's the thing to remember. The other thing about hydrogen sulfide is that it's heavier than air, therefore it sinks to the bottom. So when you go into a confined space, and this is a trap that people fall into in the past, is that they'll put the gas detector in, but not right down to the floor. They'll put it down about a foot or two feet above ground level, which is about standing height maybe. And they'll then go in thinking it's all hunky dory, and then they'll drop a tool. They lean over to pick it up and then they pass out. Like instant unconsciousness, because the H2S completely displaces the oxygen. Yeah. So, you know, always all the way at the bottom. But, you know, a lot of this, I hear, I mean... Okay. The message is, don't go climbing into a confined space. That's it. Just don't do it. Okay. Get a professional in to do it. If you're not trained to do it, don't do it. No matter how tempting that thing is, it fell down that drain, do not climb into the damn drain to get it. If you can use like something to fish it out, do that. You know, if your arm can reach, great, mind you, that can end badly too if your arm gets stuck. But you know, be sensible about it. Do not climb into a confined space. And you may think to yourself, well, oh, that's just silly, I'd never do that. Well, here's the thing. I was not always the, well, hey, I was young once, everyone was, right? When I was a kid, no one talked about this stuff. I mean, they'd say, "Oh, don't go into drains and pipes and stuff." You know, I guess. Did they say that? I can't remember anyone telling me specifically not to. So, I said every now and then, you know, I was a kid and I was out with my mates. And, you know, it's hot in the sun. Sometimes you want to sit in the exit of a stormwater drain because it's out of the sun. It's really cool. It's like 10 degrees cooler in there. And that's 10 degrees Celsius cooler, whatever that is in Fahrenheit. The point is that it's a lot cooler in there. I didn't climb all the way up into them, which would have been even more stupid. But even so, even that was stupid. So, you know, where was- where were my parents giving me this lecture? You know, it matters. Do not go in them. OK. So a lot of people, I think, listening to this might be saying, well, that's all well and good for you, John, because you're an engineer and you're- and you're exposed to confined spaces and so on and so forth. there's big signs up on these things around industrial sites, confined space, do not enter. It's like, unless you can't read, you'll see the big red and black sign, you'll think something's wrong, but even so, people become more aware of it in industrial environment. What does that mean in the real world for real people? Well, maybe confined space is a bit of a stretch, but this is still worth talking about because as I said, kids are kids and it's worth making sure they know the risks. Even some adults don't understand the risks. But let's talk about a couple of things that are very specific to inside the home. And some statistics I found, there's a nice website that talks about this, that's in the show notes. About 18,000 people die in the United States from household injuries. And that's not to mention, obviously, the number of people that are injured that wouldn't be in that list. It could be five to 10 times that number more are injured. Yeah, usually you'll have 20 near misses for every injury and you'll have 10 injuries for every fatality or something like that. There'll be- There's a scale. Anyway. So of that, one third of those is from falls. And when I say falls, it's primarily because of slippery surfaces in the household, and usually that means wet areas. So in your en suite or your bathroom, your shower recess, You know, water gets on the floor and what? It's tiles, they're smooth tiles. Traditionally, why are they smooth tiles? Because they look nice, they feel nice. But you don't want that. What you want is you want is non-slip floor tiles. Ones that when they get wet, they still have a fair bit of friction. So you don't just slip over and crack your head open. And a lot of people look at handrails, you know, how you can get handrails put around baths. Oh, they're just for disabled people. Helps them get in and out of the bath. Yeah, well, you know what? It actually helps normal people getting in and out of the bath too. So there's not much extra expense to get some handrails fitted so that it's safer for you to get in and out of that bath. You'd be amazed how many people slip and hurt themselves each day just getting in and out of a bath. And a quarter of that figure of people that died were from fires and burns, severe burns. So, of course, I couldn't have a whole episode of Pragmatic about safety, not talk about house fires. So finally, we'll talk about that. When you've got, fires have been a problem for a very long time, obviously, and more electricity in the household, you've always got the old gas that's been around for a very long time. So gas lights originally, now I've got gas stoves, and even in some cases, gas fridges, and gas water heating systems, all that stuff, gas everything. I don't have any gas in my house, but it's all electric, but then I don't have big heating requirements here where I live. So, in any case, fire is a big problem. First of all, first and foremost, you have to have an evacuation plan. If it's a building, a commercial building or an industrial site, you have to have by law an evacuation plan. It needs to be posted up in multiple locations, exits have to be clearly marked, but in residences, you don't have to do that. Not legally. I mean, why not? Why is it any damn different? You know, it's like the company doesn't want to get sued, so that's why they do it. I guess that's the pessimistic way of thinking about it. So they legislate about it. But seriously, why the heck is that not required? I don't get it. The best thing you can do is even if it's not required, do it anyway, especially if you got kids. If it's just the two, if it's just you on your own, then that's easy. You know what you want to do. But if you got two people, it's important to say, here's what we're going to do if there is a fire. If there's a fire in this part of the house, we're going to use this exit and get out this door and we'll meet out the front. Like we'll pick a spot, we'll meet by the cherry tree. Hopefully no one chopped it down. So the point is that you've got to have some kind of a plan, run through it and practice it and do it every six months. And when I say every six months, do it at the extremes of the seasons, do it in the middle of winter. When if you're in an environment where you live, where you've been, where you've got ice and snow. Yeah, you got to factor that into the equation. Maybe it's too dangerous to escape or difficult to escape through a certain method. I will just climb out the window. Well, that's great on this top story if everything's covered in ice and you just slide off the roof and hurt yourself through a different means other than being burnt. Yeah, I don't know. Maybe that's an extreme case, but try it at the extremes in the middle of summer, middle of winter. Cover your bases that way. But practice it regularly. At least have a plan and make sure you've got a common point of rendezvous. And once everyone, your head count, you know how many people are in the house. Once those people are out of the house, do not go back in. Don't go back in for anything. I don't care what you think it's worth. It's not worth that. Never go back in. How many times have you heard about, you know, the person that went back in just to save the photo albums or something? Right. You know, I mean, just don't, don't, don't, don't, don't. whole backing up data episode, you know, hey, have them in a fireproof safe, people, and then trust that the fireproof safe is actually fireproof and, you know, hey, all that the fireys get there in time to prevent damage reaching that part of the house. You'd be stunned how quickly smoke can overcome you. You really would. You think, I'll take a deep breath, I'll be in and out. No. When you're running around, if you're just floating in a pool, you can hold your breath for 40 seconds, a minute, you know, people that do natural diving, you know, what they call that, where they can keep help hold their breath for multiple minutes underwater. Well, that's because of pressure and all that. And that's a lot of practice. If you're running or crawling and exerting a lot of energy, you cannot hold your breath as long as you think you can. And a wet towel or a wet handkerchief over your mouth is not going to save you. So anyway, the best way, of course, is to make sure that you've got lots of access points. Sorry, I should say egress points out of the house. Safety is a safety, sorry, security is a big problem. So people put security grills in their house. And I think, well, you should, I mean, for insurance purposes and for your own peace of mind. Fine, you should do that. So the problem with that is that most security grills are permanently affixed to the frame. So that's a problem because in the bad old days when it was just a fly screen, you would open the window and you could just pop the fly screen out with a single kick or even a sharp push with your hand and you'd be able to escape through the window. If you didn't have fly screens, you didn't even have that problem. But now if you put a security grill in, you're up for smashing some glass. So you better be sure that your three-year-old kid can smash through a window pane of glass. I guarantee you, my can't. So what's the solution is if you're going to have security grills, you have to make sure you get the special fire escape screens. There's a whole bunch of different names. There's no real standard name, just fire safe screens or fire escape screens or safe escape screens. I found dozens of different names, different brand names mainly. And the idea is that they have a release pin and a hinge. So what you do is you pull a release pin, open a flap, and then you push literally like a miniature door, the security grill out of the way. And it's still pretty well as secure as having it completely stuck in place, drilled in place, cemented in place or whatever in place. And that gives you easy access out the window if you have to get out in the fire. See, ordinarily, if you've got a room that's habitated, you're supposed to have two exits. One exit is your primary and one is your backup in case your primary is blocked. So if you're in a room, a kid's bedroom, and you need to get out and the hallway is blocked, they can't go out their main door, the only option is the window. And if they can't break the glass, they're dead. That's it. So you have to make sure that you think of that. Anyway, something to keep in mind. OK, moving on. OK, so smoke detectors is the last real thing to talk about, and that is everyone should have smoke detectors. If you don't, go and buy some as soon as you stop listening to this episode. Go get them, put them up. I don't care if you're renting, put them up anyway. And don't whinge about having to change the batteries every 12 months. I don't care. Change the damn batteries every 12 months. Whatever. Get lithium batteries so you don't have to change them every three or four years. Either way, just get them. Because the earlier warning you've got, the better chance of A, you have of getting out and B, if you catch it in a really early stage, you might even be able to extinguish it before you lose your house or your apartment or whatever. There's two kinds of smoke detectors. There's ionizing smoke detectors which have been around quite a while and more recently the more expensive photoelectrics. Now the way they work, the ionizing one works, is that they put some radioactive material, usually it's americium in there or americum, I don't know how to pronounce I've always said a meresium but anyway it's a synthetic element and so I forget its atomic number off the top of my head but greater than uranium obviously and anyhow what that does is that essentially ionizes any smoke particles that come through its detecting chamber and those then create a current and that very very small current is detected by the battery which then drives the alarm sounder. They are really good at picking up smoking fires and I don't mean fires that have a nicotine habit, I mean fires that smoulder for a long period of time and yeah often that's a problem but yeah it's one kind of fire but once a fire really gets underway it'll start generating heat. They say where there's smoke there's fire but the funny thing is where there's heat there's also eventually fire as well and you will be able to see the heat with a photoelectric before you will ever see the smouldering. That said, both have their own advantages and disadvantages. So a smoke detector will detect the smoke particles further away from the source of the fire, whereas a photoelectric needs to be more physically close to the heat source in order to detect it. So one, for example, that's a long way away from the heat source, say 30 feet away in the hallway, will probably not detect, a photoelectric probably won't detect a fire starting in the kitchen, whereas an ionizing detector would, because the smoke particles will, because hot air rises, they'll carry up to the roof and they'll fan out across the top of the roof. The problem, of course, with ionizing ones is that they are also, well, there's a problem, no, well, they're cheap. And the great thing about that, I guess, is that people have been putting them in now for decades, a couple of decades now, they've been quite popular. But they go off every time someone burns the damn toast, right? and people get sick of it. Yeah, they'll go and they take the battery out. They take them down. They just, yeah, they give up on them. So my advice is use a combination of both. I would be using the photoelectric ones in cooking areas or areas where you have heat sources most likely to start a fire. Like if you've got a laundry with a dryer in it, or you've got a kitchen with a stove top or an oven, whatever. I would be having the photoelectric sensors in those locations. And then I would put the ionizing detectors closer to the bedrooms, which are presumably further away, depending on the size of the house and all that sort of stuff, how many you need is up to you. And don't take my word as gospel. Check with your local fire department. There's plenty of sites out there that have got the best advice of where to mount these things, but please consider getting them and using them. Because what you want to avoid is the burning toast syndrome, which is as soon as the alarm goes off, kids start wake up a little bit during the night and say, "Oh, someone's cooking toast again," and go back to sleep or just try and ignore it. Or they don't, their first reaction is to not get out of the house. It's, "Oh, there goes the damn smoke detector again." So if you start getting nuisance triggers, move the damn things. Try a different type. Go switch to the photoelectric and do the ionizing in that location. You know? In any case. So that's fire and fire detectors and fire safety. I didn't talk about fire extinguishers or fire blankets, but yes, you should definitely have those as well as preventative measures. Most people don't have an extinguisher and a lot of people don't have a fire blanket. Fire blankets are surprisingly cheap and they're very quick and easy to use. And honestly, having one of those in wherever you cook is invaluable. So that's an easy one. Fire extinguishers are hard to sell because you've got to make sure that they're pressurized, you've got to check professionally and so on regularly, otherwise you can't use them. All right, the last, the very final thing, I said that was gonna be the last topic and it is, But honestly, there's one more thing I wanted to say about this. And it comes down to attitude. Okay, safety. And I don't care if this sounds douchey, maybe it does, maybe it doesn't, who cares? It's not all about you. It's not all about your safety. It's about the safety of other people around you, the people that you love, people that you don't necessarily love, or maybe you don't specifically care about them that much. Maybe they're your neighbours, your extended friends or your casual acquaintances. You know, maybe there's someone you walk past as you're walking down the street, they're doing something dangerous. You know, there's so much societal pressure in bigger cities to just keep to yourself, mind your own business. You know, don't tell someone else how to operate their leaf blower. They're not wearing hearing protection. You know, and you walk up to someone operating the leaf blower on their driveway and it's like, well, hang on a minute. You should be wearing hearing protection. Why aren't you doing that? You know, mind your own damn business, right? And I'm sure that if you say that to a dozen people, you would get at least one or two of them come back and tell you to mind your own business. But the truth is that if they're doing something that's really unsafe, that they could really hurt themselves, maybe hearing's not as big a deal in that sense. But, you know, if they could physically injure themselves or someone else, for goodness sake, tell them. You know, even if they don't change their way, if you tell 10 people they're doing something dumb or dangerous, unsafe, if only one of them changes what they're doing, I think it's kind of worth it. You know, don't just accept it and keep walking. And one of the things that I came across years ago, and I am a little bit of a poet, but this is not one of mine, I can appreciate good poetry. And there's a guy called Don Merrill. And he's a poet, but he works for a company called J.R. Simplot Company. They're a chemical fertilizer. He's been there for 40 years or thereabouts. I think he's still there. He started working out as a laborer, worked his way up this ranks to being a granulator operator. To be honest, I'm not entirely sure what that is. But anyway, they operate granulators. And along that way, he became involved with a safety committee. specifically the oil chemical and atomic workers local 2-632. He obtained an Idaho state journeyman electrician's license. So he's a Sparky and he obtained the emergency medical technician certificate and spent 18 years responding to emergencies and injuries within the plant he was working in. He's written a lot of poems and I'm actually gonna read this one to you now. And why I'm gonna read it is because this is a poem that I heard years ago that has changed the way I see this stuff. And there's a link to it in the show notes. Read up on it. It's good. And brace yourself. Here we go. Or if you don't like poetry, I guess fast forward. But, you know, if you've made it this far, you may as well stick with me. It's only another couple of minutes. The poem is entitled, I Could Have Saved a Life That Day. I chose to look the other way. I could have saved a life that day, but I chose to look the other way. It wasn't that I didn't care, I had the time, and I was there. But I didn't want to seem a fool or argue over a safety rule. I knew he'd done the job before. If I spoke up, he might get sore. The chances didn't seem that bad. I'd done the same. I knew he had. So I shook my head and walked by. He knew the risks as well as I. He took the chance. I closed an eye, and with that act, I let him die. I could have saved a life that day, but I chose to look the other way. Now every time I see his wife I know I should have saved his life. That guilt is something I must bear, but it isn't something you need to share. If you see a risk that others take, that puts their health or life at stake, the question asked or thing you say could help them live another day. If you see a risk and walk away, then hope you never have to say, "I could have saved to life that day, but I chose to look the other way. That's it. That's by Don Merrill. The message is, if you see someone that is doing something that is dangerous, could potentially hurt themselves or others, stop them, say something, do something. Don't just keep walking. That's it. If you want to talk more about this, you can find John on Twitter @JohnChidjy. The same on You should check out John's site, If you'd like to send an email, you can send it to I'm Ben Alexander, and you can reach me on Twitter @TheatluxFM. You should follow Pragmatic Show on Twitter to see show announcements and other related materials. Final thank you to our sponsor, Typeform, for sponsoring this episode. Make sure you check them out. Thanks for listening, everyone. Thanks, John. John: Thanks, Ben. [End of Audio] Thanks man. [MUSIC PLAYING] [Music] (dramatic music) (music ends) [BLANK_AUDIO]
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Ben Alexander

Ben Alexander

Ben created and runs and Fiat Lux

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.