It’s Raining Oil Mr. Safety!
I have been asked many times by many people through the years, “How is it that even when you get upset it’s not for long?”. The short answer to this question is humor and a lot of mistakes. Now I’m going to try and explain what the long version is. Even though I believe that I possess a certain ability to see humor in almost everything I see or do, there’s more to it. First off it is true that you need to have the ability to laugh at yourself. Believe me when I say, I give myself a lot of material to work with. If something is going to happen, it’s happening to me. Let me give you an example.
I was working for a open pit copper mine and at the time I was the union safety representative for the crew I was working on. I was driving a 320 ton haul truck, (which if you have never seen one, look them up on the internet after you read my column first of course). The truck I was driving broke down so a supervisor picked me up in his pickup and took me to another truck to finish my shift. Upon pulling up to this other truck, I noticed there was a 55 gallon barrel of oil about ten feet away from the left front tire.
Now when you are in one of these trucks the number one hazard is blind spots. It takes about twenty-five feet away from the driver’s seat to see the ground. You think that’s a lot? Well, it takes about a hundred and fifty feet away from the truck to see the ground out of the passenger side window while sitting in the driver’s seat. This is because with the cab positioned on the left side of the truck it’s twenty two feet to the far right of the truck. When you are in the cab it’s like sitting on the roof of a one story house with a peaked roof. I wanted to put that out there to give you a sense of size.
Anyways, we pull up to this truck and there’s this 55 gallon barrel of oil on the left side. Did I mention I am acting safety representative? Yes, I know I did already. Being the good safety guy I am, I pointed this out to the supervisor and said that because this truck is parked in a parking area that we use all the time, this barrel needs to be moved ASAP. I went on to say that if someone were to run over it it would be a big deal due to a hazmat spill. I knew he knew this but I felt important informing him anyways. So he told me he would have the mechanics come get it after I left.
I was sooo proud of myself! I put my big lunchbox on the steps of the truck and walked around and did my safety inspection of the truck. After I felt that the truck was okay, I grabbed my big lunchbox and went on up the ladder, did my inspection of the top, put my big lunchbox in the cab and started the truck up. Did I mention I’m the safety guy? I got my assignment from dispatch and did one more walk across the deck to make sure everything and everyone was clear of the truck before I left. Remember how close the barrel was and how far away from the truck it takes to see the ground? I sat myself down, buckled my seat belt and away I went.
I moved about 15 feet away from my parking spot and slammed on the brakes because all of the sudden there’s this black rain pouring down the windshield. My first thought was, did the engine just blow up? That didn’t seem right, I mean I didn’t hear a loud bang or anything. What’s going on? By now there is oil all over the cab and across most of the 22 feet of deck. Strangely enough though, the engine compartment is on my right side but the passenger window is clean? If the engine blew it’s top, shouldn’t that window be covered in oil instead of the driver’s door? It hit me, OH No!!! This great safety guy that just got done telling the supervisor how that barrel of oil had to be moved before the next truck parked there has, (in all his stick up the butt greatness) just ran over that same barrel of oil!
After shaking my head and feeling completely stupid, I had to take a minute to laugh at myself. After this short laughing and calling myself a few choice words, it was time to get serious again and get ready to call that same supervisor back on the radio and prepare for the butt chewing I was about to receive.
“Hello? Umm yes sir, I need you to come back here please. Why? Umm well sir I would rather talk to you when you get here”. I was surprised what his next question was. “Oh Billy you didn’t?” “Umm, can you just come here please sir?” The same supervisor that dropped me off was back within ten minutes. I got an unexpected surprise, when he drives up, I’m standing out on the deck (oil dripping all around me) and he didn’t get out of his pickup shaking his head and yelling at me. He got out of his pickup shaking his head and laughing so hard he could barely stand up! I didn’t think it was that funny.
Of course looking back now, it was that funny! After he got himself back under control, he told me that because the truck was loaded, I would have to take it to the dump and empty it out, then he would have dispatch send me to the washbay by the truck shop so they could wash the truck off. I didn’t want too because I didn’t want anyone seeing me driving a truck covered in oil and asking what happened. He gave me a huge roll of paper towels so I could clean the widows enough to see and I was off to the dump.
After dumping the truck, I got another surprise. Dispatch told me the washbay already had a truck in it and I had to go get reloaded and run one more load before getting this nasty thing cleaned up, let alone they were sending me to get loaded all the way on the other side of the mine! Well, I did it and they made sure everybody seen me. Finally, I get to the washbay and the guys there tell me they haven’t had a truck there all day. This fine supervisor wanted to make sure I learned my lesson and let everybody know it. Chalk one up for him! Also taught me some humility. Afterwards I wasn’t the cocky safety representative anymore.
I still tell this story because even though I thought it was funny and everybody else thought it was too, it was one more thing showing me that you have to be able to laugh at yourself. What’s more, the people that I worked with showed me respect because when they asked what happened, I was honest and told them the truth. I hope you enjoyed my story. Sorry it was so long but the truth has a lot to it. Remember, we are all in this together