Asking Questions is the Easy Way to Learn

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Asking Questions is the Easy Way to learn

Be a better pipeline engineer - ask the question!

by: Ted Metcalfe


We learn new information in many ways, and for many different reasons. Even when we are not trying to learn, or don’t think we need to learn, we seem to gather valuable information.

For some people, lessons are really only learned if they are learned the hard way, from the bitter experience of having done something wrong with unexpected (sometimes embarrassing, painful or expensive) consequences.

It’s a lot easier to learn by asking questions.

In the Introduction of Part 0, it is acknowledged that AS2885 sets out specific requirements in some areas, but notes that these do not replace the need for appropriate experience and engineering judgement.

At 1.5.7 of Part 0, competence is defined as having an appropriate combination of knowledge, skills and experience to safely and effectively perform the task required as requirements for users of AS2885.

Users of AS2885 are required to apply engineering judgement.

It can be said that engineering judgement requires a combination of both knowledge and the confidence to make decisions, where:

- Knowledge is the accumulation of relevant factual material, and

- Confidence is the self-courage required to interpret both the relevant circumstances being considered and the application of the Standard to those circumstances, and to make decisions on that basis.


Experienced engineers have learned that one of the easiest and most important ways to learn is to simply ask questions, and for pipeline engineers, that’s one of the main reasons that the AS2885.info wiki was created.

We’re here to help you learn, and we look forward to having users of our Standard ask questions.


Accumulating Knowledge

Some of the reasons why pipeline engineers may benefit from asking a question in relation to accumulating knowledge include:

1) Maybe the matter you are working on is a bit out of the ordinary, and you are not sure exactly which part of the Standard should apply.

2) Maybe a clause in the Standard that you were previously familiar with has been changed or has disappeared, and you want to know what clause applies instead.

3) Maybe you have learned about some innovative new product or material that does not seem to be covered already in the Standard.

4) Maybe you have an innovative idea that you would like to implement, but to do so might be stretching the intended scope of the Standard.

5) Maybe the wording of a clause seems confusing, or could be interpreted two different ways.

6) Maybe you simply want to learn more about a particular topic in pipeline engineering, construction or maintenance, but don’t know where to look for additional information.


This last point illustrates that while good experienced engineers always work within their limits, those limits can be expanded by additional training, study or participation in events.

If the AS2885 team can’t help directly with any of the above, someone in their wide networks of industry contacts probably can, and we will make the introductions for you.


Gaining Confidence

Experienced engineers are able to make engineering judgements with confidence. Some of the reasons why pipeline engineers using AS2885 may benefit from asking a question in relation to confidence include:

1) Maybe you are required to make a decision in relation to application of the Standard, but just don’t quite have the confidence to do so, and a second opinion would help.

2) Maybe you have been told by your supervisor or an experienced colleague that a certain clause means one thing, but their interpretation does not seem quite right to you, and you would like a second opinion without openly challenging your colleagues.

3) Maybe you have witnessed what you think might be an incorrect or inappropriate practice, and before making any fuss about it in your own workplace you would like to quietly get a second opinion from an independent source, without disclosing why you are asking.

4) Maybe you are involved with modifications to a rather old pipeline for which not all of the usual design and inspection material is available, and you are unsure as to exactly how the current Standard should be applied.

5) Maybe you are afraid that your question will be considered by other as a dumb question, and you don’t want to ask in the office and risk looking silly for not knowing the answer already.

This last point prompts me to describe how I learned a very important lesson about asking questions quite early in my career when I was working in a sour gas processing plant:


Amoco Canada processed a lot of highly toxic hydrogen sulphide gas and the gas plant where I was working had experienced a serious accident. As a very junior engineer I was allowed to attend the meeting of management convened to examine the causes and work out a way forward, but I didn’t understand everything that was being discussed.

At one point I bravely put up my hand and said “Can I ask a stupid question?”

The plant manager replied calmly from the other end of the table “Son, in this industry, there are no stupid questions, only dead people who failed to ask the questions, so how can we help you?”


Ever since then I have had the confidence to ask a question when I didn’t understand something.

You can ask the AS2885.info team any questions which might help you be a better pipeline engineer - that's what we're here for.