What’s the Zulu Paradox?

The Zulu Paradox is the argument that the number of bolted flange joint defects, accidents and environmental incidents such as loss of primary containment conflicts with the assumption of an industry that is highly regulated and that personnel are suitably qualified to industry approved competency-based training qualifications.

If COMAH sites are highly regulated, if industry guidelines are readily available and encouraged to be followed and if personnel are attending recognised competency based training courses, why do we see so many non-conformances and defects to bolted joint assemblies and why is UK industry experiencing such a continued number of incidents and accidents – directly relating to the mechanical integrity of bolted flange joints?

Since the first COVID 19 lockdown I decided to take a deep dive into the problems we have relating to mechanical skills and competencies (or rather the lack of) and since then I’ve been researching, gathering data and analysing the ‘State of our Nation’ (the reasons why UK industry is experiencing such a downturn in competency) and early 2024 I’ll be releasing a shortened report of my findings.

There are several reasons for the downturn, and these will be outlined within the report; ranging from asset owners not complying to regulations and industry standards, or maybe complying – but NOT taking the subject seriously enough, a severe lack of apprenticeships, an ageing workforce, the use of ‘uncontrolled’ bolting methods and bad practice and lastly human error and/or incompetent personnel.

For those that are interested in this subject, I am more than willing to present my findings and perhaps discuss the Zulu Paradox in more detail.

Although there is some positivity in terms of initiatives being displayed by some asset owners, we still have some way to go – because if we don’t start seriously addressing this and act right now then the coming years will become more and more difficult for all our industries.

The regulations are in place, the standards are there, the guidelines are available….so there’s no excuses.

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