It’s Raining Oil Mr. Safety!
I have been asked numerous 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 the long version. 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 crazy is going to happen, I’m probably the one it’s happening to. The following true story will help you get the idea of what I’m talking about.
I was working for an open pit copper mine in Arizona and at the time I was the union safety representative for my crew. I was driving a 320 ton haul truck, 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 steel barrel of used oil about ten feet away from the left front tire. This was left by the mechanics who were working on this haul truck.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 due to the cab being positioned on the left side of the truck. It’s approximately twenty 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 ).
When we pull up to this truck and I see this barrel of oil, my safety instincts kicked in and I knew I would have to tell the supervisor about it. Before I continue, did I mention I am the acting safety representative at this time? 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 as soon as possible. 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 anyway. ( I got what I like to refer to as the big head, also known as self importance ). He agreed and 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 up the ladder to the deck where the cab is. I did my inspection of the top, put my big lunchbox in the passenger side of the cab, went around to the driver’s side and started the truck up. Once again, 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 and my drivers side door. 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 20 feet of deck. Strangely enough though, with engine compartment located on my right side and yet 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? Out of the blue, it hit me like a ton of bricks, 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 episode and calling myself a few choice words, it was time to get serious again. I have 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”, I said. Why? came the reply. “Umm, well sir I would rather talk to you when you get here”, I answered back. I was surprised what his next question was. “Oh Billy, you didn’t?”, he exclaimed. “Umm, can you just come here please sir?”. My reply was weak because of the embarrassment I felt. The same supervisor that dropped me off was back within ten minutes. I got an unexpected surprise, when he drove 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. Instead, 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. Well, it didn’t feel like it then but thinking about how I must have looked with the oil dripping all aroundme, it probably was that funny.
After he regained control, he told me that because the truck was loaded, I would have to take it to the dump and empty it out. After I did that, 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 do this 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 then I was heading 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. If that wasn’t bad enough, 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 told 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 about it too. Chalk one up for him! He also taught me some humility. I learned this lesson like most lessons I have learned, the hard way. I wasn’t near the cocky safety representative that I had been before this incident.
I still tell this story when I can. Even though it was humiliating at the time, it was also one more thing showing me that you have to be able to laugh at yourself. I gained respect from the people I worked with. This was because when they asked what happened, I was honest and told them the truth. This is just one instance through my life that has humbled me and taught me to learn to laugh at myself when I mess up. Holding anger or embarrassment does nothing but cause pain to your body. Laughter will lift your spirits and help you get through any dumb thing you may do. If you have any stories that have taught you humility, I would love to hear them. Don’t be afraid to share your story because the ones you are talking to, have stories of their own. Take care. God bless and Remember, we are all in this together.