r/maliciouscompliance | Construction Owner causes a Minor Disaster…


There’s a reason they have those limits in
place, Chad. XL
The big industrial and infrastructure jobs are always an exercise in logistics at a concrete
plant. It takes about 40,000 pounds of concrete to fill a standard 10 cubic yard (about 2,020
gallons) drum. All that material has to be brought in by semi. To ship 100 yards (10
mixers), it is going to take about three trucks of rock, four of sand and one powder train.
A single job can easily be over 1,000 yards; the biggest I have personally seen was over
5,000 (and as much of a nightmare as it sounds). So, this night we are running about 2,000
yards, on two boom pumps. The loads are basically going out back-to back, as fast as Bob (the
plant manager) can load them. I am not in my truck. I am down in the yard directing
traffic. The anthropomorphic personification of Putt’s Law, commonly known as Chad, had
decided that this job is too big to let Bob handle things (Bob has only been with the
company for 20 years). He is concerned that the drivers will get confused driving the
100 meters across the yard, so I am out there making sure the material trucks go to the
material lane (a large grate in the ground where they can dump rock and sand down onto
a conveyor belt), the powder trains go to the powder lane (on the opposite side of the
plant, where the hoses to pump the cement are), and the mixer drivers go to one of the
batch lanes (directly under the big, whomping batch plant that they work at every day). Things are fine for the first few hundred
yards, but Bob is spending powder faster than the powder trains can unload it. Eventually,
the silos run dry, and things slow down to the match the unloading rate. This upsets
Chad. There are trucks stacked up at the job site, but they are starting to dwindle, while
the line of empty trucks at the plant starts to extend out into the street. There is risk
of a gap in service. Then we get a reprieve; one of the pumps breaks down, and the rate
of work on the job site is cut in half. Bob can slow down enough that the powder trains
refill the silos; we even get a couple stacked up and waiting to unload. When we get the
word that the second pump is back in action, Bob goes over to the powder lane to tell the
drivers that they can start unloading like normal as soon as he finishes loading the
next truck. It is at this point that Chad oozes his way
over, with all the charm and benign purpose of Sarah Lewis’ cesspit. He doesn’t want to
risk a service gap. He wants the powder trains to start unloading faster, fast enough to
match what Bob is sending out. The powder train drivers say they are already unloading
as fast as they can. Chad doesn’t believe this; he knows the transfer system operates
on variable pressure, and the drivers do not operate at the compressor’s limit. Cement powder is very fine, and it carries
on the air very easily. When delivering cement, air is blasted into the trailer, creating
a thick, misanthropic cloud of lung damage and chemical burns. Fortunately, this cloud
is trapped inside the trailer, and the only escape is through a hose, and up into the
silo. The pumping speed by is dependent on the pressure inside the trailer, so what Chad
wants them to do is up the pressure to the point where they are putting in powder at
the same speed Bob is pulling it out. The drivers refuse to do it; company policy limits
the maximum pressure they can run at. Chad doesn’t care. Those limits are there to keep
the silo from getting overfilled. With Bob pulling out powder as fast as he is, there
should be enough time to shut down if the inventory alarm goes off. The drivers still
refuse. Then Chad threatens to fire them for delaying such an important job. Bob and the
drivers look at each other, then Bob unlocks the adjacent storeroom and walks away, while
the drivers crank up the pressure. When he gets back to the office, Bob tosses
me his keys and asks me to move his car over next to mine. Bob normally parks right next
to to the office, on what is usually the leeward side of the building. I normally park on the
east end of the yard. I like it better than the street, but it means my car catches a
lot of dust off the plant. So I move Bob’s car and start walking back. By this time,
Chad has moved up onto the catwalk above the loading lanes, where he can gaze over his
efficient little kingdom like Yertle the Turtle. Then one of the bag houses burps. If you look at that picture of the powder
silos, you might notice what look like miniature silos on top of them. Those are the bag houses.
Inside each of them are several dozen felt bags, like four-foot long windsocks with one
end sewn shut. That end is hung from the roof, while the open end is clamped to holes in
the floor (the roof of the main silo). As the air and cement powder is blasted into
the silo, those bags act as filters, allowing the air to escape, while keeping the cement
inside. As best as we can figure, what happened was that the air was being blown in at a high
enough pressure that it was packing those bags full of powder, and restricting the airflow
out. There was no alarm because the powder level was still below the sensor, but the
pressure was building up inside. When the pressure finally grew too great, it tore three
bags, blew open the bag house door (ripping the lock off in the process), and spewed a
mushroom cloud of powder into the air. I am about halfway back across the yard when
I see the powder drivers slap their dump valves and dive into the storeroom. A couple seconds
later, somebody turns off the moon. A couple seconds after that, the penny drops and I
race for the office at a dead sprint. Chad is still up on the catwalk. Chad does not
realize what has just happened. Thanks to the massive halogen lamps mounted all over
the plant, he does not notice lack of moonlight. He has no clue that directly above him, one
of the bag houses is vomiting out darkness like an angry, bilious volcano god. All chad
can see is me running into the office and pulling the doorstop, and the drivers all
across the yard in front of him frantically rolling up their windows. And then it hit
him. Our plant is on the west side of the yard.
This is pretty normal in Southern California, because the prevailing winds blow in off the
ocean. That means that any dust or powder that escapes the plant blows across our yard
and has a chance to settle there before crossing into the neighboring properties (for similar
reasons, the bag house doors open towards the yard). In addition, that means Chad is
standing on the east catwalk, so he can look across the bulk of the yard. Finally, that
means that when falling powder was caught by the Santa Ana winds that had been blowing
on and off all night, it got pushed straight back into Chad’s face. The stuff came boiling
down across the catwalk, hit the ground and flooded out both sides of the loading lane.
It was the kind of thing you expect to see Dwayne Johnson running away from, a semi-dysfunctional
sibling unit in tow (about to learn a valuable lesson about life, love, and/or family), while
O Fortuna blares over the house speakers. The mess it made was glorious (especially
in the break room, which had an open door facing the loading lane…the people inside
were ticked). Things could have been much worse. Fortunately,
since the powder drivers were expecting it, usually the immediate response to a bag house
failure is for the driver to stand there dumbfounded for a couple seconds, then shut everything
down. These guys ended the system in both silos immediately. Still, there was a lot
of pressure in the silo, and it doesn’t take a lot of powder to make a huge cloud. We also
had to run for the rest of the night with the torn bags (I did re-bolt the door closed).
After the shift ended, I took a little drive downwind of the plant. There was cement powder
in parking lots a half-mile away. Now, in normal circumstances a blown bag house
is going to cause an investigation, and someone is probably going to be suspended or fired.
These were not normal circumstances; AQMD got wind of what happened. The Air Quality
Management Districts are the boogeymen of the construction industry. If you’ve ever
driven past a construction site, you have probably seen the big signs that say, “If
you see dust coming from this project, call:” and several phone numbers. One of those numbers
is always for AQMD (usually the last one, because the contractor is hoping for a chance
to fix things before AQMD shows up. Just arriving on site is enough to completely shut down
operations, while a bunch of 300-pound truckers and construction workers peer fearfully through
the blinds at a little, white pickup and it’s 110-pound occupant. The reason for this bowel
voiding fear is that AQMD can levy absolutely stupid-high fines; in California, the cap
is $1,000,000 per day per violation (though you would basically have to be a Captain Planet
villain to actually get a fine that high). Now AQMD can’t prove it was us (technically,
another plant could have blown a bag house during an overnight delivery), but we were
the only plant running a large night job in the area. They know it’s us, and that is putting
us under greater scrutiny. Corporate doesn’t particularly like that, so the investigation
gets kicked up a notch. Blame is immediately leveled at the driver
whose silo blew. Between him, the other driver and Bob, however, it soon becomes apparent
that he had been forced to violate policy by Chad. More than that, Chad was in charge
of the ready mix division, but the powder drivers fell under the authority of the materials
division. He had been threatening an employee he had no authority over (technically the
materials division is a separate company from ready mix). Corporate wasn’t about to just
fire one of their highest ranking executives, since that would look bad. Instead, Chad was
promoted and given a larger office, with a spectacular view of the San Bernardino Mountains. In addition to his duties with the ready mix
division, Chad was put in charge of the construction of new facilities. Of course, at that time,
the only facility under construction was the new quarry. Unfortunately, the quarry was
nowhere near the corporate office (or Chad’s house), so his desk was relocated on-site.
There wasn’t anything permanent up at the quarry yet, so Chad’s new office was converted
from a steel container. It had a corrugated metal awning to keep direct sunlight off the
roof, a couple windows cut in the sides, spray-on insulation all over the inside, and a wall-mounted
AC unit. It also had a portable toilet planted next to it, because there was no plumbing
or on-site water yet. It did, as stated, have an absolutely spectacular view of the mountains
(though that would probably have been more enjoyable without all the noise and dust from
the construction). To his credit, he lasted three whole weeks before deciding it was time
to retire. You must get a doctor’s note
OCS I am a grown-butt man, and I can tell when
I am sick. I know my body a little better than a doctor does in terms of recovery and
if it is something I’m not sure of I will see a doctor. But my place of work has this
silly rule that if you are going to be out 3 days you have to have a doctors note. Anyway, I got food poisoning the other day.
It was the middle of the night right before I was going to go in before it started to
hit and I knew what was coming. It was going to be 36 hours of running to the bathroom
followed by 24 hours of being super tired from not having eaten for the last 2 days
and not having had any sleep for the last 48 hours. It’s a full 3 day recovery for me.
The first 36 really are the worst though. So I called in sick on Tuesday, and Wednesday
and was going to call in sick on Thursday too to get my much needed rest and be 100%
for work on Friday. I know this is what was going to happen. But when I called in this
morning I was told I have to get a doctor’s note to miss this day. It’s stupid because
what is a doctor going to tell me that I don’t already know. But my doctor also hates these
types of rules so she had my back. I went to her this morning and told her what
my work said. She asked if maybe I might have had chills during my time being sick. So I
said yes. She said, she doesn’t feel comfortable saying it was just food poisoning and is going
to say it could have been a stomach flu. She’s writing me a note to be out until Monday now. So now I have 2 days of just rest and relaxation
followed by the weekend. Thanks for forcing me to go into the doctor!

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