Stories from the Field: Safety Schmozle

**To me, Christmas holidays means chilling out with family and friends and being entertained. Here’s some entertainment for you all from when I was last in the field. Hope you enjoy and are having a fantastic holiday!

It finally happened. Yvonne has visited the Fort McMurray hospital. Unfortunately it was for all the wrong reasons.

Yesterday was an eventful day. Yvonne and her crew were bush-busting through seismic trails, looking at some low-lying areas.

Whenever they came up against deadfall lying across the trail, Yvonne usually inched up to see if the tree would go under the argo or over. If over, then Yvonne would reverse, alter her angle to make sure that the tree would go under the argo, then drive over the dead tree. (Note: an argo is an eight-wheeled little tank-type ATV, see picture.)

At 3pm, Yvonne and her crew emerged from a dense patch of pine and looked at the sky. It didn’t look good. Clouds were moving in fast. Their helicopter was due to pick them up between 4 and 6pm. They hoped it was more toward 4pm.

They started west, back to the helicopter landing area.

Deadfall hung across the trail. Yvonne inched up and pushed the tree with the front of the argo. She pushed it more. And more. Suddenly the tree snapped over the hood of argo, raked over Yvonne’s hand, and slammed into her torso. The breath was knocked from her body. She pushed the tree aside and launched herself from the argo intent on finding out if anything was broken. Yvonne flexed her hand and stretched her torso, breathing deeply. All was intact and functioning. Relief.

“Do you still have one of those ice packs you put in your lunch?” Yvonne asked one of her stunned crew members.

All four crew members snapped out of their shock, jumped up, and scurried around. A frozen water bottle was given to Yvonne and she placed it on her hand. It was swelling fast and turning a marvelous shade of purple. Thankfully she’d worn gloves otherwise blood would have been spewing.

Her trusted assistant was digging out the satellite phone to contact the helicopter when Yvonne noticed that her vision was blurring and her head was swimming. “Here we go,” Yvonne managed to say before everything went black. Next thing Yvonne knew, she was sitting on the ground wrapped in the comforting arms and legs of one of her crew members with the rest of her crew staring, concerned. She didn’t remember how she got there.

Everything was still blurry. Her head was spinning, and she felt woogie. The frozen bottle was returned to her swelling hand. The trusted assistant now finished the phone call, “We won’t be making it to the helicopter by 4.” Then she lit up a cigarette, hands shaking.Bog_and_Boreal_Forest_Vermont_DP45

Eventually Yvonne’s colour returned, the world stablized, and Yvonne rose to her feet. The clouds had rolled in. Thunder was roaring and lightning was flashing in the west. Rain began.

“Let’s get out of here,” Yvonne said. Then they heard the helicopter. They were still about 30 mins away from the helicopter’s landing area.

Yvonne now took the passenger seat, the trusted assistant took the throttle, and the crew piled back into the argo. With as much safety and haste as could be balanced, they took off once again.

The rain was now coming down in sheets. Thunder banged. Lightning closed in. “The GPS says were going south,” Yvonne yelled.

“No. We’re going west,” said the assistant.

“I know, but the GPS says south.”

“That’s bullshit.” They continued.

Then they encountered argo tracks. Yvonne and her assistant exchanged a glance, “We’ve been here before.”

“That way,” the assistant pointed and reversed to a perpendicular trail.

“We’re going to have to pull over and find shelter,” Yvonne said. The lightning was almost overhead. “Up there,” she pointed to a stand of pine trees.

They pulled over, escaped the metal of the argo, and donned rain gear. Then they pulled the tarp from the survival bag. Yvonne watched, babying her swollen hand, as her crew erected a tarp in 2 minutes flat. It was spectacular. Then they proceeded to dig out the “protein” bars and eat and laugh their way through the thunderstorm. Another phone call informed the helicopter that the crew had pulled over to sit out the storm in safety. They’d resume their trek in about 30 mins.

About 20 mins later, the storm was fading and they heard the helicopter take off and circle. “He’s looking for us.”

They packed up and met up with the helicopter.

Later that day, an incident report was filed to report Yvonne’s injury. The next day, the shit hit the fan.

Yvonne suspected that she’d have to get examined by a doctor, but she was avoiding it. She was fine, everything functioned, and the only thing the doctor would say is, “Do you feel fine? Then you’re fine.”

First, the Calgary office called. Where is the incident report? “I faxed it last night.” Oh. They went in search.

Second, an email stream arrived before noon. At the bottom of the email stream, Yvonne’s client wanted Yvonne to visit a doctor to ensure that there are no complications from the incident. By the top of the email stream, Yvonne was being told by her own office to revise her incident report to say she’d passed out because she’d stood up to quickly. Yvonne may exaggerate in the name of fiction, but when it comes to truth, Yvonne doesn’t lie.

Third, Yvonne emerged from the hospital three hours later with a clean bill of health and the knowledge that she had passed out from shock, just as she’d figured. An urgent email awaited her. Call Calgary. She did. Sitting in her truck in the hospital parking lot, Yvonne found herself on a conference call with her Calgary office. They urged her to re-read the email; she didn’t need to go to the doctor. Too late, she said. Done. Besides, the client specifically stated Yvonne should see a doctor. Her reading comprehension was just fine, thank you very much.

Yvonne and her assistant have been through two COR safety certifications and a COR safety audit. They know what they’re doing. They tried to explain this to the office BEFORE they left for the field. Apparently they weren’t believed. Yvonne received instructions on how to revise her incident report and when to file the WCB form and to where. Yvonne nodded and sighed then revised her incident report as follows:

“Upon receipt of an email from her client stating concern for possible future complications, Yvonne visited the Fort McMurray hospital where she was issued a clean bill of health (attached). Follow-up is required only if pain is noted. Lost consciousness was likely due to drop in blood pressure from trauma.”

Yvonne refrained from referring to the stupidity of her office’s presumption that she’d faint from standing up too quickly. If Yvonne couldn’t withstand the blood rush of standing too quickly, what the hell was she doing in the field??

Then Yvonne picked up her assistant and went to Earl’s for a drink.

Will Yvonne’s co-workers and supervisor eventually believe Yvonne when she says she knows what she’s doing? How much more paperwork can Yvonne endure before collapse? Will Yvonne’s right hook be affected by this injury?

Stay tuned!

Please note: because of proprietary and confidentiality issues, I could not use my own photos here. As such, the photos here have been pillaged from other generous sites, yet are representative of the environment.


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