As the Senior Vice President (SVP) of Environmental, Health, Safety and Transportation (EHST) at HydroChemPSC, Rick Pitman understands the importance of performing proper, daily maintenance on hoses and couplings. Due to the abrasive materials flowing through the hoses, and the various environments the external part of a hose can be exposed to, lack of maintenance can drastically shorten the life of both hoses and couplings. This shortened lifespan can then have an impact on the cost, productivity and safety of a project requiring these applications.
Hose + Coupling World had the pleasure of speaking to Pitman to discuss his views and best practices when it comes to hose maintenance, and how he believes hose manufacturers and suppliers play an invaluable role when it comes to reducing hose failures.
By Catarina Muia and Angelica Pajkovic
Pitman has always had a love for teaching, which he discovered paired perfectly with his ingrained desire to prevent danger. While he graduated from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor of Arts in History and began working in Consumer Finance, Pitman quickly realized that he found his work unsatisfying and altered his career path.
“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 benefit them.”
With a career so focused on safety in industrial sectors, the maintenance of applications such as hoses and couplings is high on Pitman’s priority list. “Unfortunately, maintenance is one of those things that is extremely easy to overlook or take for granted,” Pitman pointed out. “When we talk about taking shortcuts to get the job done faster, it is never worth it. Instead of taking a shortcut that can save about three to four minutes, you can extend the life and operational effectiveness of your hose as well as ensure the safe operation of your hose just by performing the proper maintenance.”
Maintenance: A Proactive Measure
Although there are many different hoses used at HydroChemPSC, Pitman chose to focus specifically on the crucial maintenance steps of hydro blasting hoses. Before using a hose for the first time, it is beneficial to take a few moments to inspect the cleanliness of the coupling, and the hose opening, to ensure there is no debris present. “There will often be debris which could prevent a proper seal connection and impede the flow of material,” explained Pitman. “It is therefore crucial to look over the coupling and ensure that any debris is removed, and that no cracks have developed. The structural integrity of the coupling must be reliable before connecting it to the hose and using it again,” he continued.
Pre-job inspections are vital. If a poor connection between the hose and the coupling is not discovered until the system is put into production, not only will the pressure and cleaning ability be reduced, but the hose will have to be removed and replaced, and production will be interrupted. “It is important to remember that if you see a leak or have a concern about the connection between the hose and coupling, you must not tighten or service the hose connection while the system is energized.” Pitman continued to stress that the system must be fully de-energized before any maintenance is done to applications such as a hydro blasting hose.
“I understand it can be tempting to take a shortcut. However, while it may look like the connection just needs some tightening, the issue could be much larger than it appears. It is therefore unwise to gamble with that type of risk, as the potential consequences can be severe. There are a number of stories in the industry where workers have taken these types of risks and the hose or connection burst under pressure. Simply de-energizing, performing the proper maintenance and then re-energizing is always the better option.”
Once the job has been completed a post-job inspection and analysis is necessary. To begin this process, the hose must be flushed and disconnected in order to proceed with the inspection. It is also important to check the hose’s ‘abrasive covers’. Typically a polyvinyl chloride (PVC) cover is used on the hose to help protect it from vibration caused by the hydro blasting pump and pressure during a cleaning job. “If the hoses are running across a concrete slab, or over a gravel area, the constant vibration can lead to friction and will wear down the outer covering of the hose. The abrasive cover helps prevent this from happening,” said Pitman. Over time these abrasive covers also wear down and should be checked after each use. If a cover has been worn down, which is can also be accelerated by over-bending the hose, it is immediately replaced.
An extra practice that can be used to extend the life of a hose is to store it in a controlled environment with controlled temperatures. “Storing the hoses in this type of environment helps prevent any embrittlement or premature cracking.”
Couplings also need to be checked post-job to ensure that no cracks formed during the process. “To maintain the coupling’s integrity, steps are taken to ensure that no chemical or corrosive chemicals were flowing through the hose that may have impacted the metallurgy or materials of construction,” said Pitman. Additionally, the coupling’s exterior should also be checked to ensure it did not encounter corrosive materials. “Discoloration in a fitting or coupling is a good indicator that the application has come into contact with something acidic, corrosive or caustic and is now being negatively impacted,” he continued. Couplings that show corrosion are also immediately replaced.
For Pitman, choosing the right manufacturers and suppliers for hoses is not a decision to be taken lightly. “Our overall strategy is to standardize where we get our hoses from, with a very small number of producers.” Due to the high risks that come with using hoses, the company currently uses only five regional hose providers for all hose types. “For our hydro blasting hose, we have a single national provider; they are the only company that we use because they also service our hoses.”
Pitman expressed that it is crucial for all manufacturers and vendors to have systems in place to help manage customers’ hoses effectively. “Our partnership with our hydro blasting hose manufacturer and supplier has, in fact, allowed us to better manage our hose integrity programs. For example, the manufacturer has a tracking database that tracks asset information when a new hose is fabricated, and sends it into that database. This system manages the specific hose from the date of its fabrication to the end of its useful service life. We also have various life limits placed on each type of hose. This helps us determine when to put a hose out of service,” he stated. “In addition, our supplier performs an annual visual and pressure test inspection on all hydro blast supply hoses. Having and independent third-party inspection provides integrity and confidence to our inspection process. If there is any visual defect or pressure issue the hose is taken out of service.”
On the rare occasion where the company experiences a hose failure in the field, Pitman explained that HydroChemPSC partners with the manufacturer and supplier of the failed hose to investigate the cause; there are many reasons for hose failures such as overstretching the hose on an application, or as a result of a manufacturing error. “No matter what the cause ends up being, we learn from the failure and take steps to prevent it from happening again by sharing our knowledge with the entire organization.” Having this relationship with its manufacturer and supplier gives the company the ability to strengthen its systems and manage its programs more effectively.
“Our goal is to have the same type of system in place for our vacuum and chemical cleaning hoses within the next couple of years,” stated Pitman. “In our search to fulfill this goal we have found many providers who are able to effectively manage assets and provide hose and testing failure data analyses.” For Pitman, a manufacturer who offers these services has a significant advantage over ‘traditional providers’, whose business model is ‘quick service availability’ and ‘fast response times’. While there is nothing wrong with those services, the industry is moving into a time and era where offering fast response time is not enough. Vendors need to be able to indicate how many hoses they have sold in a year, the number of hoses that have failed and a detailed root cause analysis for each. This is how we reduce hose failures,” Pitman related.
For HydroChemPSC, it is beneficial to have a partner that can show the amount of hoses that have passed and failed tests, and why those hoses failed. From there, it is possible to improve and refine a hose management program. This data also helps validate the life limits that have been put on the hoses.
“All of this information is something a good partner should be able to provide. The ability to deliver fast service is the equivalent of a restaurant saying, ‘Come eat here, we have clean dishes!’ You expect clean dishes when you go to a restaurant, in the same way that we expect good and fast service when we are dealing with a potential hose supplier,” Pitman expressed. “Taking these extra steps allows the end users, like HydroChemPSC, to reduce hose failures, give longer life to its hoses, and assure that its hoses are performing as safe and productively as possible.”
Return on Investment
For Pitman, requiring pre and post job inspections, as well as implementing a comprehensive hose management program has provided significant benefits. “Although there was some work on the front end to implement the program, the return on investment was realized fairly quickly,” Pitman noted. “By managing the hoses as assets, and analyzing their performance, the useful life of the hose has been extended significantly. People deserve to work in an environment where the equipment and knowledge they are given are the best possible,” he continued. “By sharing the knowledge that comes from hose inspection data, as well as requiring rigid standards for inspection and removal from service, employees will be confident that they are working with safe and reliable hoses.”