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Landmines and bombs - a part of the risk assessment process

Since oil and gas are global commodities and are extracted from the ground in any number of post-conflict countries , which is where landmines and bombs are also often to be found - and also since I have been active in dealing with such things for more years than I care to remember. I thought that there might be some interest in opening a discussion into what these things are, what they can do, how they can impact operations and safety and .... what to do about them.

Before I kick off, I'll wait to see if there is any interest.........

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Thanks for the very swift response, Tom! I will kick off with some comments shortly.

Cheers, 

Matt

 

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Matt, you seem to have a background that is a tad bit more dangerous than most.  So I'm curious to see what you have to say about clearing landmines and bombs.

A couple years ago on the now defunct Oilpro forum there were some discussions on a similar topic.  Was that you?  (Apologies, I can't recall if that was by you or someone else.)

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Tom, yes that was me posting on the same subject on the now defunct Oilpro forum.

I'm a bit of a one trick pony since, explosives and that kind of stuff have been my bread and butter for many years, so its the one subject I know a little about. However I do grow organic vegetables and herbs too! Don't get me started on that or I'll post pics of my tropical Rosemary shrub.

But I would add that whilst my subject matter (bombs n things) is perceived, rightly, to be a dangerous area to work in, my many years of training and experience with the subject have always been from the perspective of safety - how to avoid danger, control risks and, where necessary, to deal with the pesky critters in the safest way.

In my view, people who venture into mines and UXO contaminated areas without training or EOD support are more at risk than I.

And there are many examples of risk taking even in this enlightened age of HSE+. For example, a couple of months ago in Hong Kong, a major construction site unearthed 2 rather large WW2 American bombs. It was pretty obvious therefore that there was a risk of more being found, since that area had been heavily bombed by the Allies after the Japanese occupation.

Intriguingly, the construction site owner responded to the risk by giving the construction workers some hand held metal detectors, with orders to "look for unexploded ordnance in your place of work". I am not kidding. Such stupidity is unfortunately not uncommon, even today.

In another example of, in this case, unwitting stupidity, a certain organisation that I was later a consultant for arranged that in the event of a terrorist bomb incident involving their area, the entire company staff would evacuate the building and congregate for a roll call adjacent the biggest area of glass in the building. Thus ensuring maximum casualties in the event of an explosion.

Anyway I hope that this topic will increase awareness of the subject of landmines and unexploded ordnance and also provoke discussion amongst people interested in oil and gas, since anything that affects safety may also affect profitability, among other things.

 

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1 hour ago, Eodmatt said:

explosives and that kind of stuff have been my bread and butter for many years, so its the one subject I know a little about. However I do grow organic vegetables and herbs too! Don't get me started on that or I'll post pics of my tropical Rosemary shrub.

... can't ... resist ...

none-shall-pass-unless-you-bringeth-a-shrubbery.jpg

Anyway, yes, I remember your clearing landmines and bombs threads.  Looking forward to reading about this explosive topic again.  Your previous threads could be a bit nerve wracking; you seem to like living dangerously.

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While I was working as a security adviser to a very large Chinese seismic acquisition company I was asked to go downstairs to join a discussion regarding one of their projects in Iraq. On arrival, I was asked if I knew anything about up-armoring vehicles such as pick-up trucks and Land Cruisers. I said that I was aware of the practice but had limited technical knowledge and I asked them why they were interested.

They explained that their client (who I will not name but was a company that should have known better) had suggested that they might want to consider up-armouring their vehicles. I asked why?

They said that their client told them that the area in which they were to do seismic acquisition might be at risk from landmines. My response was that if there was any perceived risk from landmines then risk management measures should have been put in place well before the seismic company was tasked. They countered by saying that's what the up-armoring was about. I explained that up-armouring, like PPE, was a last resort safety measure and that actual risk management practices needed to take place before the seismic project started such as a survey (won't get into the different levels here) of the area to establish whether or not there was an actual risk. If the risk of landmines could not be dismissed with certainty, then some form of clearance of the seismic lines needed to be undertaken as up-armouring vehicles and sending personnel within those vehicles into an area where they could get blown to pieces by anti-vehicle mines was not the best H&S practice.

Ah, yes, but the client says that landmines only "might" be a problem; they not 100% sure... And so I repeated myself and we went round in circles as every effort was made to come up with answers that would not offend the client and so I stood my ground until I was thanked for my input and told that they didn't need to bother me anymore.

Very worrying.  

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3 hours ago, Mark Ranson said:

the client says that landmines only "might" be a problem; they not 100% sure.

"might" ?

Hi Mark, welcome to the Oil Price forum.  Another Oilpro refugee, I believe.  Pretty sure I recall that you posted a few "explosive" security threads on Oilpro.

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3 hours ago, Tom Kirkman said:

... can't ... resist ...

none-shall-pass-unless-you-bringeth-a-shrubbery.jpg

Anyway, yes, I remember your clearing landmines and bombs threads.  Looking forward to reading about this explosive topic again.  Your previous threads could be a bit nerve wracking; you seem to like living dangerously.

Right Tom, you asked for it! Me Rosemary bush.

 

0-02-06-4919143fe1d02c5ffefb414aad06f2928de323996acddb82c92c5f75347279f3_1c6d9175bc698a.jpg

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1 hour ago, Eodmatt said:

Right Tom, you asked for it! Me Rosemary bush.

0-02-06-4919143fe1d02c5ffefb414aad06f2928de323996acddb82c92c5f75347279f3_1c6d9175bc698a.jpg

Thanks, that's a great specimen of a Rosemary shrub, Matt.  Nice to have a relaxing pastime, away from the stresses of work.

Please continue on telling your experiences of unexploded landmines, bombs and other hazardous risk assessment processes.

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Tom, yes that was me posting on the same subject on the now defunct Oilpro forum. I'm a bit of a one trick pony since, explosives and that kind of stuff have been my bread and butter for many years, so its the one subject I know a little about. However I do grow organic vegetables and herbs too! Don't get me started on that or I'll post pics of my tropical Rosemary shrub.

But I would add that whilst my subject matter (bombs n things) is perceived, rightly, to be a dangerous area to work in, my many years of training and experience and concomitant actual with the subject have always been from the perspective of safety - how to avoid danger, control risks and, where necessary, to deal with the pesky critters in the safest way.

In my view, people who venture into mines and UXO contaminated areas without training or EOD support are more at risk than I.

And there are many examples of risk taking even in this enlightened age of HSE+. For example, a couple of months ago in Hong Kong, a major construction site unearthed 2 rather large WW2 American bombs. It was pretty obvious therefore that there was a risk of more being found, since that area had been heavily bombed by the Allies after the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong.

Intriguingly, the construction site owner responded to the risk by giving the construction workers some hand held metal detectors, with orders to "look for unexploded ordnance in your place of work". I am not kidding. Such stupidity is unfortunately not uncommon, even today.

Another example of, in this case, unwitting stupidity, a certain organisation that I was later a consultant for arranged that in the event of a terrorist bomb incident involving their area, the entire company staff would evacuate the building and congregate for a roll call adjacent the biggest area of glass in the building. Thus ensuring maximum casualties in the event of an explosion.

Anyway I hope that this topic will increase awareness of the subject of landmines and unexploded ordnance and also provoke discussion amongst people interested in oil and gas, since anything that affects safety may also affect profitability, among other things.

22 hours ago, Tom Kirkman said:

Thanks, that's a great specimen of a Rosemary shrub, Matt.  Nice to have a relaxing pastime, away from the stresses of work.

Please continue on telling your experiences of unexploded landmines, bombs and other hazardous risk assessment processes.

Thanks Tom! I am not sure that it is a great specimen of a Rosemary shrub, but it is a specimen! Rosemary is not native to south Vietnam, n being a shrub that likes a hot and sunny, almost arid environment. I have found it growing in Cyprus, Greece, Bosnia and Turkey. Rosemary dislikes very humid environments (apparently) and little rainfall. But my little shrub is doing well in a sunny spot with high humidity (84% today) and tropical rain fall -we are in the rainy season right now and its been honking down for weeks. I digress....

One of the things that never fails to amaze me in the oil industry (and the building industry) is that HSE and safety blokes will have seizures over people not wearing Hi Viz gear, safety shoes, eye protection and so on. There is an almost religious fervour about compliance with such 'elf n safety attributes. Yet, mention the word Landmine or the acronym UXO, the same 'elf n safety perps will often turn a deaf ear and a Nelsonian eye.

What, eh? Whats that you say? Can't happen here! They will chant, piously.

When I was working as UXO clearance manager for a seismic acquisition project in Vietnam for a French company, the HSE manager grabbed me one day and said: "I think that the likelihood of us finding UXO here, or of an accident happening with UXO, is prolly (he didn't say prolly, thats my contraction of the word "probably" - I'm too idle to write it in full) the same as being hit by a meteorite".

I showed him a copy of the local (An Giang) provincial newspaper which had a front page story about two blokes being killed the day before by digging and hitting a UXO, a few kilometres away from our base (a small town called Hong Ngu) - and I gave him a copy of a report I had written about the 500lb bomb we had found in a rice field about 2 metres from a seismic acquisition line a couple of days before. 

"Oh", he said. "But still, its very unlikely to happen to us". He said hopefully.

I asked him how many accidents involving eye injuries his company had sustained in the last year. None apparently.

So I suggested that we discontinue issuing eye protection to the workers to save money. He was aghast.

"You cant do that. Its.... its, against 'elf n safety rules". He spluttered.

But when I told him that if the 500lb bomb we had located was to detonate, it would be a hazard - a risk of serious injury or death to people - out to around 1500 metres, he was unimpressed. 

"Yeah, but thats unlikely to happen", he said.

Decisions based on ignorance, made by people who should know better, to ignore risk from UXO are common-place in the oil and construction industries even in this day and age.

I made reference earlier, to a very recent (a couple of months ago) decision made by the MTR in Hong Kong at a major construction site, to issue workers with metal detectors so that they could search their worksites for bombs.

Having been around for a few years it takes a lot to amaze me, but I was amazed by the total stupidity of this decision made by the senior management of MTR.

I mean, to begin with, would the workers recognise a "bomb" if they found one? They come in all sizes from a few millimetres calibre, up to several tons in weight. And what would they do if they found a bomb?

In fact, someone advised the board of directors of MTR of the utter stupidity of their decision and the process of untrained workers searching for bombs was discontinued. Fortuitously as it turned out because another rather large bomb was discovered close by, a week or so later. 

 

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