Ensuring Safety and Hose Integrity: Interview with Rick Pitman

    Adhering to stringent safety practices in the workplace is a doctrine Rick Pitman, Senior Vice President of Environmental, Health, Safety and Transportation (EHST), lives by. Through his experience, he has gained expertise with hose and coupling applications in various industries including: PetroChemical, Refining, Oil and Gas, Pulp and Paper, and Utilities and Power. In each of these industries, Pitman has made it his goal to meet and exceed the necessary environmental and safety standards required to achieve a secure and danger free environment for every employee.

    Hose + Coupling World had the pleasure of meeting with Pitman to discuss his role as the EHST Sr. Vice President, his knowledge on the fabrication and function of a variety of industrial hoses, and how he uses that knowledge to mitigate and prevent potentially dangerous situations from arising in the field.

    Although he did not grow up thinking that he would someday be a safety or environmental advisor, Pitman was not surprised that advocating for risk awareness became his passion. Having been raised in a risk adverse environment, Pitman was able to recognize potentially hazardous situations at a young age. As he progressed in life, he discovered his love of teaching and quickly realized that it paired perfectly with his ingrained inclination to prevent danger. “The desire to equip people with information and knowledge that could improve their lives, or in the case of safety, help protect their quality of life, became a bit of a passion of mine,” said Pitman. “Working in the environmental, health, safety and transportation field, is therefore the perfect role for me. I truly get a sense of joy from being able to teach someone something they did not know before and have it positively benefit them.”

    Dynamic Experiences

    Pitman graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor of Arts in History and began his career in Consumer Finance. As he found the work to be somewhat unsatisfying, Pitman quickly altered his projected career path to focus on safety in industrial sectors.

    “An opportunity in this industry presented itself to me and I dove in,” stated Pitman. “I learned about the tooling used, how hoses and pumps functioned in industrial cleaning systems and how to maintain and prolong hose integrity. I was also focused on the why; I wanted to understand why we used the hoses we did and why it mattered. My goal was to learn this as quickly as possible because once you understand the how and the why, you can figure out the safest way to approach every aspect of the job.”

    Now, with over 20 years of experience in the EHST field, Pitman has been engaged in a number of different hose applications and acquired a thorough understanding of their various uses; this has been pertinent to his role as Sr. Vice President EHST at HydroChemPSC.

    Hose Safety

    In his current role, Pitman is primarily responsible for working with the executive team to craft strategies, systems, and processes which has resulted in HydroChemPSC moving beyond mere compliance and instead towards having best-in-class environmental health, safety and transportation performance.

    “There are a number of systems that we put in place to ensure that field workers are safe,” explained Pitman. “For example, regulatory behavior guidelines and training modules are systems we commonly use to mitigate risk. We want to produce the best informed and skilled workers by ensuring that employees not only know the necessary steps for each application, but also why these steps are important; we make sure everyone appreciates the impact our work has on the environment and how utilizing technology reduces CO2 emissions. Additionally, we verify and validate that all levels in our company understand how the proper care and maintenance on every single piece of equipment can help reduce the number of potential injuries. We utilize training delivery platforms which require active engagement from our workers so we are confident that they are not only trained in course matter, but have the ability to put those concepts into the field on day one.”

    Do not take your hoses for granted. It is really easy to focus on applications like pumps or the cleaning tool because of their complexity, but without the hose you cannot connect the source of the pressure to the place that needs to be cleaned. Really understanding how a hose works, why it is made the way it is, and the materials of construction allows you to be more in tune with what good looks like, which is turn makes it easier to detect when something is at risk to fail.

    In addition to his primary responsibilities, Pitman also integrates, leads and mentors a large number of multi-level personnel. Due to the amount of field time Pitman logs, he interacts with many of the hoses used across the different services that HydroChemPSC offers.

    “As part of my role is to ensure that the procedures put in place are followed, I often have the opportunity to evaluate hose performance in the field. There are three major hose types we utilize on a regular basis. They are: high pressure water hoses, vacuums hoses and chemical cleaning hoses. Out of those three, the largest group that we purchase and manage is the high pressure water blast hoses. Most people are familiar with a pressure washer that can be used for home cleaning. While a home pressure washer hose will typically transfer between 1,000 to 3,000 psi between the unit and the tool, the hoses that we use will deliver 10,000 to 40,000 pound of pressure from the pump to the tool,” explained Pitman.

    Over time, the equipment used in refineries and chemical plants becomes coated with the residual substances from the material being contained. In a chemical plant, the residual plastics will begin to accumulate on the sides of containers, storage tanks and products. In a refinery, scale and coke will coat the products and impede their ability to operate at optimal levels.

    “Once the equipment in a plant becomes too encumbered by the excess material, we go in with our high-pressure water systems and use that 10,000 to 40,000 pounds of pressure to remove and clean off all the Coke, scale or plastics,” said Pitman. “Although this pressure is necessary to effectively remove the material, it also comes with a high-risk factor. If a hose were to fail, for whatever reason, there is a definite risk of injury as well as a risk for productivity.”

    If a hose is to fail, the process involved to replace the hose and re-start the cleaning procedure is very time consuming. The client can therefore be negatively impacted both economically and in terms of efficiency. That is why Pitman stresses the importance of having each hose made with superior materials of construction, suitable to its designated function.

    Superior Materials of Construct

    Due to the unique fabrication of 10, 20 and 40k hoses, there are only a handful of manufactures that produce them worldwide. The materials of construction are typically robust and fairly consistent. 10K hoses are often made with a rubber outer layer whereas 20 and 40K hoses are generally thermoplastic on the outside. Underneath the outer layer multiple strands of metal braids wrap around a plastic inner core where the water passes through.

    “Hose failures can range from a simple leak that results in a lack of pressure, to more severe issues such as a hose burst,” explained Pitman. “In both of these cases, there is a loss of productivity; if the latter issue occurs there is a strong chance of physical harm to the operator. That is why using the correct materials and stringently managing those hoses from fabrication to end of useful service life is so important.”

    There are a number of systems that we put in place to ensure that field workers are safe. We want to produce the best informed and skilled workers by ensuring that employees not only know the necessary steps for each application, but also why these steps are important; we make sure everyone appreciates the impact our work has on the environment and how utilizing technology reduces CO2 emissions.

    One reason for premature hose failure is due to friction during pressurized cleaning. Water continuously pulses through hoses causing significant vibration. This frequent vibrating against hard surfaces wears down the outer layer relatively quickly, exposing the metal braids to water, rust, and friction. Once metal braids are showing the chance of a severe hose burst or water stream shooting out of the hose increases significantly. “Due to the constant friction many hoses will wear down in a matter of months,” Pitman advised. “As a result, his supply hoses are required to have a protective abrasive cover on any hose which comes into contact with the ground. These covers absorb the wear and tear from vibrations instead of the outside of the hose,” Pitman explained. “As a result, hoses are lasting years instead of months because the materials of construction are protected. The return on investment is high because abrasive covers are much more affordable to replace than high pressure water hoses.”

    Pitman further emphasized that due to the severity of the injury that can occur from a high pressure burst, to both the skin or internal organs, the practice of expanding the use of burst resistant shrouds that cover the hose is gaining a significant amount of traction in the industry. These shrouds are specifically manufactured to contain the energy of a major hose burst in order to mitigate the risk to nearby operators and field workers. Shrouds have been used with hand held tooling for well over a decade. However, as more and more work becomes fully automated there are opportunities to place these shrouds in other locations where the hose is in close proximity to crew members, such as Hydroblast pumps.

    “With a number of different shrouds to choose from, selecting the ones made with the best materials is always our primary focus,” said Pitman. “There are some made with a material that is similar to what is found on fire hoses, but these do not offer the best protection. Based on our independent testing, shrouds made with double steel reinforced braids are the most adequate at offering protection. Additionally, there are newer generation lighter weight Kevlar shrouds which have been lab tested and show great promise. It is important, in my opinion, that any such protective device shroud be independently lab tested to withstand the force of a hose burst and adequately protect our personnel.”

    Words of Wisdom

    For Pitman, teaching employees what standards should be followed and what to look for when selecting hose materials, applications or processes is about more than just fulfilling a regulatory requirement. He believes that understanding this information provides each and every employee with the chance to build the skills and knowledge necessary to complete their jobs safely as well as build a better career and quality of life.

    “There are two pieces of advice I can give to anyone in the industrial hose industry, whether they are in safety, operations or another support group like purchasing,” said Pitman. “First, no matter what sector you are in, get engaged and involved with the processes, systems and programs that your suppliers have. Not all hoses are created equal, not all systems are created equal and it is important to be aware of that. Insuring a potential supplier has an understating of the quality you are looking for, as well as establishing an integrity program with your suppliers, will help you make the best long term decisions for your workers, your company and your bottom line.

    Not all hoses are created equal, not all systems are created equal and it is important to be aware of that. Ensuring a potential supplier has an understanding of the quality you are looking for, as well as establishing an integrity program with your suppliers, will help you make the best long term decisions for your workers, your company and your bottom line.

    The second piece of advice I can give, to anyone who deals with hoses, is to not take your hoses for granted. It is really easy to focus on applications like pumps or the cleaning tool because of their complexity, but without the hose you cannot connect the source of the pressure to the place that needs to be cleaned. Really understanding how a hose works, why it is made the way it is, and the materials of construction allows you to be more in tune with what good looks like, which is turn makes it easier to detect when something is at risk to fail. Lastly, be aware of just how important hoses are to the overall system.”