Some random stuff I've learned from my field work: some of this is really blindingly obvious in retrospect, but which I didn't learn in university and thus didn't think of until I ran into it, sometimes embarrassingly face first and sometimes by trying to use an existing bad design.
> Operations and maintenance don't like crawling on their hands and knees on gravel to get at equipment that needs maintenance.
I told you some of these would be blindingly obvious. I have seen limited access to not only equipment for maintenance, but also to valves that need to be used on a regular basis. I have also personally needed to work a valve several times per day where I had to thread my hand between several tubes just to reach it. Fortunately I have skinny hands, and none of the tubes were hot.
> Valves mounted 3m above the ground need chain wheels.
Moving a stepladder into place every time you need to adjust the valve just doesn't cut it. An extension handle made of pipe and hydraulic hose is a very clever retrofit using the materials at hand. (Good operators are wonderful.) Basically, any piece of equipment that needs to be operated by hand must be easily and safely accessible by the operator, and the engineer who forgets this will have operators cursing them for years.
> Safety features that annoy operators get turned off.
This actually freaks me out more than a little, because when alarms get turned off then the ones that actually involve safety get turned off with them. When I have any say in defining what sets off an alarm I put a lot of effort into making sure it's something that actually is an alarm and not just something that can be ignored. It's kind of like car alarms—who actually gets concerned about them anymore? The reaction is annoyance and ignoring the alarm, because the devices sound the alarm when they shouldn't so often.
> Yes, it is possible to lose an entire 16-foot piece of 12" pipe when you're up north. The snowdrifts really do get that big.
I asked, initially stunned that one could lose something that big. I re-adjusted my idea of how big a snowdrift is. Then I got on site and found out I had to re-adjust my idea of snowdrift size even more—once the snow melted come summer, I realized there were several shipping containers in the yard, too.
> Geese are really freaking big when you open the door and there's a flock of them right in front of you, hissing and debating where to bite you first.
Wildlife gets onto sites all the time, no matter what you do to try and discourage them. If you don't put barriers over toxic ponds, water birds will land in them. Deer cross waste rock piles from mines even though nothing grows there. They get used to the animal-repelling technology in place, such as air cannons that make big scary booms at random intervals. More aggressive animals come in too. I have been on sites where you didn't go out for a walk alone, you always stayed close to a building or your truck.
I know there's many more things, I just can't always come up with them when I sit down to ask myself "what did you learn?" I'll collect more as I think of them.