Whistle Blower

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Courtesy of InspectionLogic Corporation

It is always interesting to get a call from someone at the EPA. 'Hey Chris, we have a copy of a database and need some help understanding how the data is stored.'

It turns out that these specific callers had been auditing a plant and had requested a complete copy of the database. Their questions were very specific and it was very clear they thought someone had been falsifying data.

They would never tell me whose database they had or even what region it had come from. They did answer a few questions though.

Q: What has you digging in this specific database?

A: A whistleblower.

Q: What do you mean? Someone at the facility?

A: Well, used to be. It was a technician that got fired. A disgruntled former technician.

Q: How often does that happen?

A: All the time.

I remember a similar thing happening to me in my early LDAR days on the Texas Gulf Coast. I had to let two technicians go for 'monitoring' while they were in a smoke shack. Their supervisor had seen them exit the shack with their dataloggers in hand and had made note of the time. He then waited for them to upload their data and then looked at the time stamps. Busted.

We let them go and went back and monitored all of their recent work again. We thought it was all cleaned up and taken care of when several weeks later I got a call from the Texas Natural Resource Commission. These two 'whistle blowers' not only claimed that cheating was rampant, they went as far as to say they had been trained to cheat. Great.

We had no end of headaches until we went through several audits and were able to sort of regain the trust of the regulatory agency.

Back to the EPA callers. I answered their questions and then invited them to sit in the next week's LeakDAS web based training class. They left that class a bit wiser on what is really possible and what tracks get left behind if someone tries to beat the system. Knowing what was and wasn't possible meant that they were not chasing false leads in the data. Because of the ease with which a LeakDAS database can be audited you are much less likely to get in trouble with the EPA.

So what is going to happen for this facility? I really do not know. I do know that a good LDAR database makes it tougher to cheat the system. Not impossible, just tougher.

One lesson learned is simply that you better document every little detail if you have to let a technician go!

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