SQL Server Blog

Safety Gear is Dangerous!

Last year, I cut my thigh with a chainsaw at my farm. Except I was okay because I had the right protective gear on.  I started thinking about that today again while doing a quick chore with the chainsaw. Had that moment of “Hmm.. Do I get the chaps or not for a simple cut”

Since I’m that kind of guy, I’ve turned that into two blog posts already. One about the two mistakes I made and how they have parallels in the DBA world last year, and how my decision to have safety gear was a wise decision, and what that means for us technologists. Another on Pinal Dave’s blog since it was my turn to guest blog there shortly after the incident  – that post was about the art of learning through studying failures in general.

There is one more point rolling around in my head I want to get out. Welcome to that post.

Safety Gear Is Dangerous

What? My post last year talked about how a pair of chainsaw chaps saved my left thigh  and maybe more. How can it be dangerous? If you look at the accident reports like I talked about on my SQLAuthority post  you’ll often see a finding from NIOSH/OSHA that says something like “They were not wearing any safety gear, the fatality would not have happened, if the proper safety gear was used.”

You’re probably thinking I’m going to tell you that having a well documented checklist is dangerous. Maybe I’ll say that backups are dangerous, by the title. You’re right.

No. I’ve not gone off the deep end here. There is a saying among firearms safety instructors. You’ll often hear things like “The only real safety is the one between your ears” when discussing mechanical safety devices on firearms. In other words, the only true safety is you and your brain thinking through what you need to do. There have been many accidental deaths or injury by firearms where a person thought their mechanical safety was engaged. In other words – they threw thinking intentionally, being methodicaland the cardinal safety rules out the window – because they thought their mechanical safety would protect them.

There are some in the fire service who say that the latest gear is so good that firefighters miss some of the signs of heat buildup in a structural fire. They can risk put themselves and their crews into dangerous situations because they felt comfortable and didn’t intentionally and carefully observe the fire and smoke conditions in the building or room they were in.

Think about it as a technologist. Have you ever heard an expression like this?

  • “Don’t worry.. We have a backup”
  • “Yeah.. But it’s on the SAN, that’s redundant”
  • “Oh we’ve done that a million times.. I have the checklist right here”

Have you ever had that expression backfire?

Those Points Don’t Make Backups or  Safety Gear Dangerous!

That’s right. You caught me sensationalizing in a post title. The same firefighting trainers who warn about the fact that the gear works so well that you don’t feel the heat rising to pre-flashover conditions as easily never say “Don’t wear it.. go back to the old rubber coats and jeans, grow a beard and put it over your mouth and nose as a filter”.. Firearm safety trainers don’t say “So.. If you have a mechanical safety device on your firearm, please never engage it”. My chainsaw chaps didn’t attract the saw to my thigh just so I could buy another pair..

These safety devices are there to help us. It’s a GREAT thing that our storage arrays have redundancies built in. It’s wonderful when a client has a properly setup Availability Group.  If you aren’t taking backups, I’m going to take away points from you as a SQL Server Consultant when I come in to do a SQL Server WellDBA Exam on your environment  and that is going to be the most important thing I talk to you about probably.

No. Safety devices, backups and the lot are good things. Many environments are still around today because of backups. Many people are alive because of firearm safeties.  didn’t have to make myself a tourniquet with a belt last week.. These are wonderful things.

Use The One Between Your Ears More

That’s my point. If you ever say, “Don’t worry.. we have a backup”  you just displayed complacency, laziness or hubris (or some combination thereof). You’ve probably said that in the context of some decision that is quick, lacks intentional thought and has a risk. Sure, sometimes you have to make that choice – but you can do things to mitigate risks. Besides it isn’t about backups,  it’s about ability to restore.

In the woods many people are hurt with all the chainsaw protective gear on. Because they felt over confident. They felt like their gear would save the day but then they fell, or they cut with a big saw and the chaps only slowed it, or they cut something not protected.

Many DBAs  have had careers ruined or at least days ruined because they acted like their High Availability setup, their backups, etc. would save them. 90% of the time? Maybe they were right. Maybe even 99% of the time. But can you afford 1% failure?

So… That’s all I’m saying here on what will be my last post getting mileage out of that scary moment. Safety devices are great. But if you’ve gotten to it and it saved the day, and it didn’t have to if you made difference choices – you should take stock and understand what went wrong.

Complacency kills. And that matters, even if it was “only” your production environment that was killed.

Mike Walsh
Article by Mike Walsh
Mike loves mentoring clients on the right Systems or High Availability architectures because he enjoys those lightbulb moments and loves watching the right design and setup come together for a client. He started Straight Path in 2010 when he decided that after over a decade working with SQL Server in various roles, it was time to try and take his experience, passion, and knowledge to help clients of all shapes and sizes. Mike is a husband, father to four great children, and a Christian. He’s a volunteer Firefighter and EMT in his small town in New Hampshire, and when he isn’t playing with his family, solving SQL Server issues, or talking shop, it seems like he has plenty to do with his family running a small farm in NH raising Beef Cattle, Chickens, Pigs, Sheep, Goats, Honeybees and who knows what other animals have been added!

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