(I guess this started out as a letter, but just ended up being a regular post; so sue me.)
In November 2011 I was sent to a job with Flint Energy Services; it was on the Deer River Rd. in northern British Columbia. I was told it was for Encana, and was given vague directions on how to get there. I was talking with a buddy that had worked on that road for quite a while, and he said that I was lucky that it wasn’t for Imperial Oil, because they take safety to a ridiculous level. Yeah, that’s just what I need, right? A bunch of uptight safety hands, writing me up for everything. You can’t even take a leak if you don’t have all of your PPE on. Oh well, I’m glad it’s for Encana.
Well, it turns out that my dispatch was wrong, the job was for Imperial Oil, and then I had that sinking feeling. I hated the safety thing with a passion. I had worked for Shell before when I was tank trucking, and it was horrible. I didn’t have wheel chocks one day, and they phoned my boss and bawled him out for sending an unprepared truck, but they still let me load unsafely. I was walking to the office to get my ticket signed, and the operator wrote me up for not wearing my gloves to walk across the lease. It was horrible I tell ya, and apparently Imperial takes safety way more seriously than they do.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the idea of safety, I just can’t stand when these oil and gas companies preach safety, write up every little mistake you make, and then throw the safety book out when they need production. I did some work for a company that rhymes with Falisman, and they had a rule that no one worked more than 14 hours in a 24 hour period. That rule stood, until the frac started, and then we hauled fresh water for 30 hours straight. When I angrily took the bill to the consultant, I was told that it had to be split into three days, because we weren’t allowed to work more than 14 hours. Great, not only did I work myself into the ground, I was a safety hazard with an eight axle tank truck, and I just lost all of that overtime. I really don’t know why I even bothered sometimes. You are told one thing, and you are shown another; it’s the way it’s always been around here. You sign their tailgate sheets, safety orientations, and JSA’s, promising that you won’t do these horrible things, but then they turn a blind eye, so you can do something more efficiently than the way it should be done.
In the beginning, I was very eager to please; always running my ass off, trying to make a good impression for my company. Hey, if they like me, they might get us back again, and I might get to keep my job. These were the things that went through my mind, and still do, to an extent. I guess I’m just looking for one of those times where everything clicks. Don’t laugh, it’s happened before, just not very often.
So we show up at the camp, and are told where our rooms are. The manager told us that the safety meeting was at 7:00 AM and orientation was at 8:00, so we got up, ate breakfast, and found our way to where we were going. The safety meeting was half an hour, and then we waited around for the orientation. We were told to get ready, because it could be three or four hours, and it was. We learned that there were three safety leads on this project, and their names are Tom, Dick and … man I wish Tim’s name was Harry. Dick gave us the first part of the orientation, and he was pretty convincing that they were serious about safety, but he wasn’t boring about it. Mark, from Morgan Construction, put together the slideshow that brought tears to my eyes, that was mentioned in the previous post “Don“, and that was what actually made me “stop and think” about how much being careless could cost me. We actually came out of there fairly happy and optimistic, which is odd for a safety orientation, but what the hell, we were going to get some free ice cleats (score 🙂 ), and a green hard hat. (no score 🙁 ).
It was kind of a different scenario than where I had previously worked. They just wouldn’t let you work without the mandatory gear, so you’d scramble to town and try to buy something, or just not do the job. Here, if you didn’t have the proper safety equipment, it was provided to you. I guess in a way that makes sense to me, because it’s the company that wants us to go home at the end of the job, and if they want us to have specialized items, I suppose it’s cheaper for them to give us the $100 worth of cleats, headlamps or gloves, than for us to leave for a day and find our own, or just leave. I have to say that I was pretty impressed that they were going this far to make sure we had the tools to do our jobs safely, but what impressed me more was the safety meetings.
I guess I’ve been leaving Flint out of this, even though their safety program is good, but only because IOR (Imperial Oil Resources) has kind of shone through, in my eyes. Every morning at 7:00 we have a Flint safety meeting, and there are a bunch of Flint and IOR safety people there. Tyrone usually reads and discusses a safety bulletin, then Barry will tell us some hints of what to do (safe working tips, evacuation stuff), and also what not to do (drinking, drugs, fornicating). Then it’s time for my favourite part of the meeting: Tom. Tom makes me smile, and I don’t know why. It could be his easy, trustworthy Tulsa drawl, or the fact that I truly believe he wants me to get home to see the girls. When he talks about different things that can happen, and how he doesn’t want any of us to get hurt, I actually believe he cares about our safety. I know, it’s crazy to think that an oil company gives a rat’s ass about what happens to me, as long as they don’t get sued. Well, that may be true with the management and bean counters, but not with these guys. You can see it when they talk to you, and get that sad look in their eyes while they are telling of a tragic accident that happened somewhere else. When they stop you in the yard and ask how your day went, or if there’s anything you need, it seems like they really want to know, and that’s a nice feeling. I think everyone wants to feel that feeling at their job. We all want to be appreciated, and what better way to appreciate us than trying to keep us alive?
So in closing, I’d like to thank everyone at Imperial Oil Horn River, for at least making me feel like I’m not just a number, but a guy with a life, and dreams of going home, hugging my family, and getting married in the summer. I’d also like to say that if you’re looking for a career in the oil and gas sector, and you value getting home at the end of the job, you should check out their careers section, or find out which contractors are working for them. I know that up here, it’s Morgan Construction & Environmental and Flint Energy Services. I’ve been working for different outfits for over ten years out here, and so far this is the best gig I’ve been on as far as professionalism and safety go.
See you in eight days Baby; Tom’s going to make sure of it,