Believe It, True Event, was Emergency Switch

My earlier response to this E-Stop thread reminded me of another BITE (Believe It, True Event) or GOTCHA story:

An HPI plant was subjected to numerous unwarranted (false) trips. The peculiarity was that the trips aways occurred on tuesday... at about the 2pm shift change.

One tuesday the plant tripped resulting in a $1MM, 400-foot flame on a 400-foot flare stack (airlines used it as a directional beacon...
often). I ran (in those days I could) into the control room and started my "investigation." Almost immediately, a cleaning woman asked me...
"Mr. Corso, why is there all this confusion every time I come to work?" I asked "How often to you come here?" She responded... "Every Tuesday...
at shift change!" In my best investigative voice I then asked "What do you do when you enter the control room?" She announced, proudly... "I push the doorbell!"

The "doorbell" was, of course, the Emergency Trip pushbtton. It was a large red-colored, mushroom head pushbutton. Its nameplate was engraved
"Emergency Trip". And every one knew its function. Everyone, that is, except the cleaning lady... she couldn't read english!

Any one else with a BITE story?

Phil Corso, PE
Trip-Alarm Corp
>Any one else with a BITE story?

Possibly. But this was a simple communications problem. (Then again, so was yours!)

Remember the old training line -- "Explain it to them, and then ask them to explain it to you." ??

August 1986: We were installing a new robotic stacking system for florescent lamps. This system takes boxes of finished lamps from a conveyor and sorts them into 6 different pickup stations to be palletized by two robots. The manufacturing plant is on the other side of the railroad siding and the boxes of lamps are combined into one overhead conveyor and transported to the warehouse. As they enter the warehouse a laser scanner reads the
bar codes and then tracks each box by using photo-eyes on the conveyor system. This requires that once a box is scanned it can not be removed from the system, and no boxes can be introduced into the system after the scanner. (Our current systems do not have this limitation.) It didn't take long for most of the warehouse employees to learn the simple rules: "1. Once a box goes
past the scanner, don't touch it, and number 2. Don't add any boxes after the scanner." However, after a full week one employee still messed up the system, and I very patiently explained it him again (and again and ...) Every time he'd smile and say "Yes!". Its wasn't until a full week had gone by that his boss observed an exchange and
told me, "Mark, Mannie doesn't speak English". OUCH!!

Problem solved.

Paul Butchart

I had a very similar BITE working at the last mill I was at. We had a simultaneous failure of 5 PLC5's in one control room. We quickly narrowed it down to the UPS that supplied the cabinets but it was acting just fine. In just a couple minutes the control room filled with technicians, engineers and every supervisor that could fit in
addition to the operators that were working. You could hardly move.

Everyone was talking but I heard the cleaning lady (yes, another one) say "This is ridiculous, I'm going to vacuum someplace else." With that she pulled the plug from the wall receptacle and left. Everything came right back up. Further investigation showed that the electricians had wired the wall outlet into the UPS because they ran out of breakers in the distribution box.

Paul Butchart
Process Control Engineer
Qualitech Steel SBQ, L.L.C.
[email protected]
Ok, I can not help myself - so let me add this one to the pile:

A large SCADA control center supported with lots of UPS and security is contained in a glass cage (they call it the fishtank). A courier comes to
deliver a package addressed to the supervisor, and is pointed to the man who at that moment is in the fishtank. The courier walks over to the door, it's looked. He looks around and quickly pushes the door release. Exept, as you would guess by now, it is not the door release but the main-shunt trip (labeled correctly, but mounted in the very same location to the door as
every other door release button on site).
Staff in the fishtank were locked in and the system run out of control for an hour, the UPS's failed - lucky thing the Halon system did not trip.

While using a cordless soldering-iron in an instrument rack room in a refinery, our tech was approached by a Safety Enforcer. They're
easy to recognize in their red helmets and red coveralls. The enforcer insisted that the soldering-iron must be "grounded!"

The tech obliged by wrapping one end of a 10-foot length of #12 AWG wire, stranded w/ green-yellow insulation, of course, around the soldering-iron. He wrapped the other end to the leg of metal desk he was working on.

Ah, perception....

Phil Corso, PE
Trip-A-Larm Corp.

Jack Grenard

Phil Corso's soldering iron story makes me
confess this non-industrial, commercial item:
When passing through airport security, I was
pulled aside because of an electrical soldering
gun in my carry-on bag. The Southwest Airlines
rep tried to avoid snickering so she wouldn't
embarrass the security guard. Well, it was a
gun, even if it could fire only watts and volts.

Jack Grenard

Anthony Kerstens

Similar story. I was leaving a site late and didn't feel I had time to change boots, and ended up going through the metal detector with steel toes on. I had to walk through 3 times, emptying my pockets and removing my belt buckle before I realised what was going on.

Please feel free to laugh.

Anthony Kerstens P.Eng.
I was once stopped and sniffed because I was carrying a 250 A cartridge fuse in my attache. I got a LOT of looks from airport security when that one came up on the X-ray. The guard shook the thing, sniffed it (literally), re-x-rayed it,
showed it to about four of his colleagues, etc.
In the end, they just let me carry it onto the aircraft. For all they knew, it could have contained C-4!
I was stopped by airport security carrying a SCADA/RTU test set. The thing looked like a "typical" movie bomb, relatively empty metal box with a keypad, display and power switch. They looked it over, asked a couple questions and sent me on my way. Scary. They didn't even make me turn it on.

Scott Olson
SSR Engineers
[email protected]
Some of you heard have heard this one before, and some of you were there!

During the early eighties, we had to move a lot of electronic data between Tokyo and Detroit. Generally, we used magnetic media, floppies and tapes, because our $5000 2400baud modems were not
reliable enough to move megabytes of information. International package delivery services were our usual method, but if someone
was headed in the right direction, they always got handed a package to carry to the other side.

The package delivery services always delivered intact data, but the hand-carried packages were frequently corrupted and unusable. We suspected that airport inspection devices were scrambling our disks and tapes.

Gradually, we noticed that engineers got the data through reliably, while the sales force rarely did. We examined their itineraries.

Typical engineer, Tokyo to Detroit, 1983: Depart Narita Saturday morning, after requesting hand check of magnetic media. Arrive O'Hare Sunday afternoon, clear customs, race to distant connection gate, argue with security guards and their supervisors until getting media hand checked, barely make flight to Detroit.

Typical sales rep, Tokyo to Detroit, 1983: Depart Narita Friday morning, after feeding media to inspection machine. Arrive Honolulu Friday evening, clear customs. Depart Honolulu Sunday
afternoon, after feeding media to inspection machine. Arrive LAX Sunday evening, change terminals. Feed media to another inspection device. Arrive O'Hare Monday early, go through another inspection, and arrive Detroit Monday morning in time to deliver media to waiting engineers.

BTW, that sales force was matched by none, and sold our products honorably and honestly around the world. They were just having a LITTLE too much fun.

Larry Lawver
(now at) Rexel / Consolidated / Central Florida
I once walked right through airport security with several tubular proximity switches in my luggage. Nobody said a word. I was amazed, they must have looked suspicious, cylindrical metal objects with wires sticking out. I was all ready to explain what they were for, but nobody asked.

As long as we are on the subject of airport security;

I was coming back from an installation in Kentucky to St. Paul, MN. I and the other guy I was traveling with decided it would be "funny" to play with the security guys at the airport (side note: These people have NO sense of humor. Found out a different time when I told a bomb joke to the security guard.)

Anyway, we thought it would be fun set up a briefcase with a Fluke 77 DVM on one side, coiled leads from the meter, and 'plugged' them into the bottom of 2 cardboard tubes that originally held 10 inch long drill bits (for concrete), but were now empty. We set the meter on one side of the
briefcase, the coiled leads across the front, and the 2 tubes on the other side. Figured they would get a great shot of that in the xray machine.

Nobody said a thing.