Friday, February 22, 2008

A Day in the Life of a Semi-retired Man

What a day! Yesterday was “one of them!” I am mostly retired but do some Safety Consulting work from time to time. I had done a Safety Walk through Audit on some contractors doing construction work at a chemical plant on Wednesday.

Wednesday afternoons and evenings are a normal busy time, especially at my church. I keep the church’s Prayer List updated and we review this list each Wednesday during our Prayer Meeting, then we have a time of prayer for these people and their needs. I need it to be at the church by noon on Wednesday so copies can be made for distribution that evening. Well, I had done my updated list and dropped it off with the church secretary on my way to do the safety audit. When I got back home, I discovered that I had to add some and take some off the list. So, I just jumped into the computer while viewing a printed list that I thought was the one I’d done that morning. I rushed it down to the church and made the copies myself and distributed them to the tables in the Fellowship Hall. The list I hurriedly updated was a week old and I didn’t make the changes that should have been made last week. We finally made it through scratching out the ones who should have come off the list last week, scratched some more this week and added quite a few to the list. There are a lot of sicknesses and deaths in our area at the current time.

Well, I delayed assembling my notes of the audit until Yesterday morning. I needed to send them in to my company’s office for the person who was with me on the audit so her notes could be blended in with mine. No problem! I decided to check my emails before getting to the report. Several required immediate answers, so I was about to answer the first one when Jo told me that there was a calf outside the pasture by the highway. I went down, got behind it and walked it up through the yard to where Jo had the pasture gate open and the calf went back in the pasture.

Back to the emails. I almost got the ones that needed attention and was to start on the report. “Jim, there’s a cow outside the pasture by the road. Walk back, drive the cow back to the yard, opened the gate and let her back in the pasture. I finally finished the emails and had 3 different phone calls regarding 3 different deaths in our community. During the time that I was assembling my notes and researching the applicable OSHA Regulation numbers each item pertained to, I had two more cows out, three more phone calls that demanded some time and two visits and what little hair I had left ready to pull out! I thought the cow problem was over, but I got another phone call at dusk dark telling me that a bunch of cows were out. I had called the guy that is leasing our pastures and told him that there was some problems with the fences and I knew that about half of his 45 cow herd was out somewhere in the woods. This was that bunch. I had gotten around them and headed them for the yard and pasture when the guy came up and we got the cows back in the pasture. He had brought a load of hay and one of his tractors to unload it with. We decided that he would put the hay out in one pasture and get the cows over there and shut off the area that the fence was bad. Well, when we opened a gate that had been closed for a couple of months between the pastures, the cows would not go up to that gate as a temporary electric fence wire had been stretched in front of that gate where we were keeping extra rolls of hay away from the cows. Finally, I managed the get them into the barn lot from the pasture they were in, then drove them on through the lot until they smelled the hay that he’d set outside the lot to get their attention. All this unloading and cow transferring took a couple of hours.

The final straw came when we decided to load my tractor for him to haul to Lucedale, MS to have new fuel lines installed. It would not start due to air getting into the fuel lines. I had a heavy box blade attached to the back of my tractor. We removed it and moved it away from the tractor shed. Then we were talking about a way to get the front loader raised up enough to pull the tractor up on his trailer.

Finally, I asked him what the tractor repairman said they would charge to come here to do the repairs. He said about $120. I told him that it would cost more for fuel in his truck to haul it down there, come back and go back and bring the tractor back. So, I told him to just tell the man to come here and do it.

Here’s the latest thing. After lunch today, I got a call from the lady that is blending the audit. She said that I’d sent her a copy of an audit report that we did in November. So, I called the correct one up and emailed it to her.

When it rains, it pours!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Willie C. Taylor

All of my life, I have known Willie Taylor. He has been involved in many, many fields of work: Farming, Logging, Paper wooding, cutting railroad cross ties, loading ties into boxcars manually toting them up a ramp and stacking them into the cars. He was a fair “shade tree mechanic,” and he was an all around great worker.

After Daddy got to where couldn’t get out and get wood for the fireplace and heater and up until Mother died, Willie made sure that there was plenty of firewood cut and split, ready for the good warm fires for the house. Also, after Daddy died, he would do all sorts of handyman chores that Mother needed done. He and Joe decided once that the trees around the yards needed to be trimmed. So, they “skinned” them by cutting the limbs up about 20 to 30 feet high! Before we moved back to the farm, I knew I had someone to keep the fences up, repaired and rebuilt to keep the cows in the pastures. If I needed someone to do some bush hogging or other tasks that required use of the tractor, Willie was there. If any of us needed some pulp wood or logs cut, all we had to do was show him what to cut and leave the rest to Willie.

In recent years, Willie’s health began to fail. He had several bouts with heart problems and other health problems. He would go down to Millry almost every week day and sit around the BP station to keep watch on the owner’s “stuff.” When the owner would be outside working on tires or servicing vehicles, the rogues, as he called them, would sneak inside the station and steal cigarettes, candy, etc. That didn’t happen when Willie was on duty! Also, he enjoyed seeing people come in and chat a while with him. I used to accuse him of running on air with his vehicles when the tires on his vehicle would be so slick that “you could almost see the air” in them! He would say that the only way you could beat a Ford was with another Ford! No matter how bad he felt, anytime we would go out of town, he would gladly come by and feed our dog, Foxy Lady. I would always bring him something from the places we would go, anywhere around the world. The last time he looked after Lady, I brought him a suede cap from New York in December.

Willie was quite the lady’s man in his younger days. Joe asked him once how many chillun he had. He said that he had “paid out” 36! He said that he had “marked” all his chilluns. Each one of them had either a double little toe or a double little finger! He said that he’d probably “paid out” one or two of somebody else’s chillum, but probably, somebody had “paid out” a few of his. One thing about all those children: He never denied them being his, and if they worked and tried to make something out of themselves, he would give them anything he had to help them. But, if they were sorry and wouldn’t work and try to better themselves, he let them “root for themselves.” He had several, especially two daughters, who really took care of him in the last 10, or so, years. They insisted on him staying with them in cold or very hot days as they had heat and air conditioning and he didn’t have that in his house.

Yesterday, February 15, 2008, Willie drove down to the BP station. But, he never got out of his truck. Everyone around thought he had just gone to sleep. Later, one of his sons walked over to talk to him and he found him dead in his truck. It took some time for the coroner to get there to pronounce him dead so there was a huge crowd of people there mourning while waiting. This just proved Willie to be faithful to his job, by his going in to do his duty yesterday even though he probably didn’t feel like going.

Willie Taylor will be sorely missed by our family and the whole community surrounding Millry.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Second Step of Power

I guess anyone could truthfully say that I am a "procrastinator." I dream up things, then "digest" them in my mind, and shape them to the form that I think will serve either myself or my family best.

This past Saturday was as glorious a day as anyone could dream up. After spending quite a bit of time inside over this winter, I saw this as a wonderful time to get out and enjoy God's present of great, clear, sunshiny weather.

About a year and a half ago, I had the Power Company to come in and reroute the electrical power service to our place. They set one new pole north of the house with one line feeding the house and another to another new pole in the back yard with a night light on it. Also, they installed a "house power" box with another meter for the purpose of running "more power" to my new tractor shed, my new shop and to the barn.

Soon after that time, I dug a 40 foot long ditch from the pole to the new shop and installed the two inch diameter conduit. This conduit was left over material that I purchased from a job site. I have had that material for about ten years. I had the use of this material rolled over and over in my mind, but had not taken any action to utilize it.

I built my new little shop about the time the power company did it's work and did the electrical wiring in the process and got it to a point that it was almost ready to run the service wiring from the pole to the shop. There are one or two little connections to that wiring the lights that have not been completed. "Procrastination!" I still use the only outlet in that shop that feeds from the house until I can get power to the rest of the shop.

I really don't like to use a shovel very much and a hoe is another subject! So, I decided to use the front loader on my tractor to "gouge" out the trench in the open areas and hand dig under the edge of the barn on into the tractor shed. Then use the loader bucket to backfill the trench.

Just as I had finished opening the trenches, one 70 feet long and the other 80 feet long, JoAnne called me in for lunch. Soon after lunch, David, the guy that is leasing our barn and pastures came up with a load of hay. He had to go in the pasture behind the barn, therefore had to cross the trench. He has been a "co-procrastinator" in this power project. I told him that I'd fill the trench enough for him to cross over. He told me not to do that. We would just go ahead and put the conduit in that trench, then when we filled the trench it would be complete.

I helped him unload his hay in the pasture for his cows. Then he told me that he would take the hay truck and trailer back home and come back in his little truck that had all his tools for doing electrical work in. Soon, he came back and we finished the installation of the conduit to the tractor shed. We didn't finish with that until dark, so I didn't get the trench backfilled until Monday.

Now! David is in the process of finding enough heavy duty wire to feed 55 feet into the shop, 85 feet into the tractor shed and storage room beside it and the 75 feet to the barn. We will do some rewiring of the old lights and outlets in the barn, wire the tractor shed and storeroom and the new shop and I will figure out the proper and safe way to connect the lights in the shop.

It is a tight race between David and me as to who is the worse procrastinator. I am now fired up and want to get that project completed, so I will stay on it and get it finished soon.

As it relates to the "Steps for Power," God provides the first step by giving us His Word to digest, learn and convict us that it is His power that enables us to lead our lives in accordance with His Word. We do the "preliminary" Steps to accept His Word and to accept His guidance. I associate this with the "thinking" and taking the first step of completing the work in progress.

The "Second Step for Power" is to put all His plans for us into action in accordance with His gift of knowledge and strength.

The next "Step for Power" will be to make the connection with the "wiring" that he provides through prayer and Bible study and fully accepting His Grace to "Light up our World" through and for Him. When I get the wiring installed and turn the circuit breakers, I will have the earthly, electric power to run saws, drills and other power tools to create "things" in the shop and lights to the barn and tractor shed.

If we listen to God's plan for us, put Him first in our minds and hearts, He will provide the power that we need to deal with the complex situations of this world.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

"Safety Man"

I started out in Safety on construction projects as a part of my duties on a U S Army Corps of Engineers' (Corps) Mississippi Test site project (now named Stennis Space Center ) near Bay St. Louis, MS. The safety procedures on this project were in force at all Corps projects long before the U S Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970.

Each week, I was responsible to hold a safety meeting with all the workers on the particular site on the project. Also, I was to keep a critical eye on all work procedures throughout the week to assure that the work was being performed in a safe manner. This created my first "extra hat" to my job responsibilities.

The Corps safety manual taught me the basics of construction site safety management. Then, when the OSHA Act came into being, I was told by my company's management, "You're it!" This responsibility as "Safety Man" was added to the other "hats" such as Field Engineer to layout new project work sites, Equipment Superintendent responsible for the maintenance of all construction equipment and Purchasing Agent, purchasing all materials and tools for all the ongoing projects in the Mobile, AL area. Also, I was responsible for "selling" OSHA Safety Regulations and duties to company management personnel, encouraging them on the adavantages of a safe work site and decrease the costs of Insurance.

Later, I moved to Oak Ridge, TN with another company as Equipment Superintendent. This job required me to be responsible for assuring that 277 vehicles, over 100 items of large construction equipment and numerous items of small-engine equipment were maintained and ready to operate. Also, I was responsible to assure that each item was in a safe condition to operate and for developing and managing an equipment operator certification program for cranes and for truck drivers hauling hazardous materials. So, I went back to wearing my "Safety Man" hat along with the other management "hats."

Later, I was transferred to Maine as Materials Manager, responsible for all materials ordered, expedited, received, stored and issued for installation on a large paper mill project. Also, I had responsibility to have needed construction equipment on site and ready to operate and that all operators were safety trained on the type equipment that they were to operate. I still wore the "Safety Man" hat to some degree.

After Maine, I attended a class called "OSHA-500" at the OSHA Institute in Des Plaines, IL. This class was a "Train the Trainer" course that trained attendees to teach OSHA 30-hour and 10-hour safety classes that are now required by most all industrial plants in the country.

After the 500 class, I was assigned to a project in northwest Alabama as night shift supervisor and "Safety Man" on a large aluminum plant addition. When that project was completed, I returned to the Mobile area as "Safety Man" on a textile plant project that had experienced 3 lost-time injuries. The project was complete a year later with no more lost-time cases.

Later, I worked for two years in supervisory positions at projects in the Mobile and Sulphur, LA areas as "Safety Man" and Structural Project Supervisor. Upon completion of those projects, a major expansion was added to the textile plant. I returned to that site as "Safety Man" and compiled a Safety Program for that site and scripted and directed the filming of training videos for the project, and I managed the Safety Program for over two years.

After that project was completed, I went went into business as Safety Consulting - Jim Wood. I wrote a Safety Program and did the scripting and shooting of safety training videos for a pharmaceutical plant in Athens, GA. I was the "Safety Man"on that project for over two years.

After that project was completed, I retired, or at least "semi-retired." I have been doing safety consulting work and expert witness work for the past eight years. I have recently completed an update on the OSHA 500 class and plan to do safety training for workers in the Mobile area as required by most every plant in the area. Also, I have been doing relief for an on-site "Safety Man" on a plant project.

I have always used the "Horse Sense" approach to Safety. That is really what a safe work procedure is. If workers will pause just a few seconds before beginning a task to do it the safe way, it adds up to be Horse Sense. I often tell workers that there are enough "donkeys" around that go merrily along not "Thinking Safety." There is always a safe way to do a task by using the Horse Sense way.

Often, I see former workers from some of the projects I've been on and they'll say, "Hello Safety Man." Sometimes it is hard to recognize them without hard hat, safety glasses and work boots!

I guess that, over the years, I can still be called the "Safety Man!" This is a name I cherish as it lets me know that I've had a part in helping construction workers from Alabama to Texas to Tennessee to Maine to work safely so that they may return home to their families at the end of each work day in as good condition as when they left home that morning. I just like the feeling that I have actually helped someone keeping someone from being maimed or killed on the job site.

Be safe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!