Editor’s Notebook: Cans and Cannots

March 2010 Vol. 237 No. 3


“Success comes in cans, not in cannots.”

This pithy Confucian canard came to me directly from a fortune cookie after Janet and I had dined at our favorite Chinese restaurant.

I pondered this for many hours and knew that somehow, someway, it must be applicable to our industry. Then, almost as if the fates themselves had read my mind, or at least my magazine, it all began to make sense, thanks to a note sent my way by Brian Belgeri, Project Manager for Socotherm LaBarge, a pipe-coating company located in Channelview, a small city on the outer east side of Houston.

Belgeri had some news that he was justifiably bursting to share. Socotherm LaBarge had recently been informed that its client, Technip France, would be making a donation of $8,000 to the local fire department. This is one of several civic contributions by Socotherm LaBarge since its opening a couple of years ago. This donation was to be strictly based on Socotherm LaBarge’s health, safety and environment (HSE) performance.

It’s a good story that tells two important facts about our industry: 1) that HSE is crucial to a successful business and 2) that energy companies try to be good neighbors.

According to Belgeri, Socotherm LaBarge has been working on a turnkey thermal coating project offshore of Angola for Technip when some months ago, the project director for Technip visited the Channelview plant for an HSE audit. He told plant managers that HSE performance is so important to his Paris-based employer that they will make a contribution to the agreed charity of choice if their criteria is met.

That criteria meant that 62 different items had to be met before starting the job. Most were already on Socotherm LaBarge’s agenda. Some involved revising permits or procedures, but nothing that they couldn’t handle, although they were uncertain they could meet Technip’s time line.

“We had no problems embracing their suggestions and we’ve done everything they asked,” Belgeri said, adding that another benefit of the program is to increase health and safety awareness of employees. “They were all sensible changes that we thought would better our program. They worked with us as well in case we couldn’t meet a specific deadline (for larger, plant-wide mechanical adjustments).

“Most of this we’d normally do but it’s good to have an outside eye come in. We’re seeing more and more focus on HSE with these large projects we’re getting. It’s a very strong indication of what companies are trying to do in terms of HSE issues,” he said.

Last month, Socotherm LaBarge and Technip held a ceremony at the Channelview Fire Department to hand over the $8,000 check, which will be used to buy multiple breathing apparatuses. Now $8,000 might not seem like a lot of money, but to a cash-strapped community like Channelview and its volunteer firefighters, it counts for plenty.

“They were absolutely ecstatic,” said Belgeri. “They said it took them all last year just to collect $6,000.”

Chalk a big one up for the pipeline industry.

Pictured from left are Jason Riker, Deputy Fire Chief CVFD, Alain Poincheval, Project Director Technip, Lon Holiday, Fire Fighter, Brian Belgeri, Project Manager Socotherm LaBarge and Roger Fahy, Safety Manager Socotherm LaBarge.