Another night shift swing. What comes with night shift? You guys should know by now…
Similar to every other night shift swing I’ve had, it came with a couple of lovely encounters with the cleaner. I really do have to give them credit for they have been consistent. They stop by once or twice every swing around midday. This time though the second visit came very early – at 10.00am, just after I had gone to bed at around 7.30am. Due to the very early wake-up call which rudely interrupted my REM sleep, I struggled to get back to sleep. I even tried ear plugs and that did not help at all. So I did what I thought was the right thing to do and informed my supervisor that I was extremely fatigued and unfit to present myself to work. I knew it wasn’t safe for me to go to work. If you guys recall, I wrote about the last time this happened. I went to work and struggled – utter zombie mode all night. Stairs and I aren’t the best combination at the best of times; imagine how much worse I would be with just three hours of sleep. Mind you, I still got into my uniform and made it to dinner but was told to go back to my room as it was unsafe for me to go to work. I would like to think that my crew understood where I was coming from. I most definitely was in no state to go to work. How could I be so sure? I had to stop and familiarize myself with my surroundings on the way back to my room from dinner because at one point I completely lost track of where I was. Yes, I was THAT bad! Throughout the night it felt as if my skin, bones and muscles were all separated and I was floating.
Although I thought I was doing the right thing, to certain people what I did was purely whinging. I guess not everyone gets the safety and wellbeing implication of the whole fatigue aspect. To me it is pretty serious especially with the stairs and equipment we deal with. Unfortunately, not all of us can sit behind our desk and hide behind a computer when we aren’t feeling 100%. Luckily I don’t care so much about what the Negative Nancy’s have to say. My mantra has been and will always be – worry about the people who care and support me, and don’t waste my energy on those who just want to rain on my parade. I would like to think that if my crew had any issues with my actions, they would say it upfront rather than do the weak beating around the bush, going behind my back option. They have always been upfront to date and I at this point I will assume they would have done the same in this instance – sort it out man to man, or in this case woman to man!
Of course boys being boys I did cop a lot of teasing the following night. As one of the guys pointed out – it’s just to be expected if you do anything out of the ordinary. The boys always tease me on the radio; in this instance they just had new material. But aside from that, nothing was too different really! Or so I thought anyway. Some of the guys approached me the next morning, telling me they felt sorry for me cause of the teasing I copped the night before. So it must have been worse than usual. The teasing that night must have been really bad because so far, six people have come up to me to tell me that they applaud the way I handled it. Had it been them on the receiving it, they reckon they would have lost their cool already. Fortunately, I was trained by the best when it came to being teased. Growing up with two older brothers, hanging out with older cousins, and all their mates combined has prepared me for the ribbing I receive from the crew.
Aside from being teased, there was a lot of other action and highlights this swing. I know I have raved about the guys on my crew a lot but they wowed me again. Maybe it just doesn’t take much to wow me but I do appreciate everything these guys do – regardless of all the teasing I cop from them. Supervisor Beibs was true to his word and got me up conveyor 12 (CV12) which is the second highest point on site. No joke, this thing is high! I am trying to get actual details on how high up it is but I can’t get anyone to pin down exactly how far off the ground it is. I have been told that if you take the stairs it is 160 steps to the top of the conveyor. You can either take the stairs all the way up or go up the side of the conveyor.
Thankfully, I was given a couple of options the first night I ventured out to CV12. Option 1 – stairs most of the way up then a few metres of walking on the side of the conveyor. Option 2 – walk on the side of the conveyor all the way up. I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed all the time, but I am far from dumb so I opted for Option 1. The previous night shift swing I couldn’t get to the top of these stairs. The knees buckled a few levels off from the top and I froze and had to work my way back down. This time, I got to the top without any dramas. The drama started when I had to get on the conveyor part of our walk. Whoever designed the handrails needs a good smacking around. Yes, I understand that the reason why the handrails go out a bit at the start is to accommodate people bringing up tools. But in this instance I say, whatever, logic smogic, it was scary. This handrail issue brought about a bit of high pitched, freaking out with intermittent howls of “I can’t do this” – delivered in the most pathetic tone possible to mankind. The only thing that distracted me from my howling was when Beibs recommended I go to a certain spot for a photo. Seriously, how can I pass up a photo opportunity like that!? So off I went. Pose. Click. Up the conveyor we went, with instructions and encouragement from Beibs all the way up. “Just look at the conveyor”, “don’t look down”, “only a few more metres to go”, “you’re doing okay”. My responses at this point were limited to “Oh my God, I’m sweating my balls off here”, “Ahhhh… la la laaaaa”, and “this is awesome”.
Just as we got to a metre away from the top, the handrails went out again and I went back to “OMIGOD THIS IS SO SCARY, I DON’T THINK I CAN MAKE IT” and completely forgot about how much I was sweating. A little push from the Beibs and I was on top of the world… well maybe not the world but definitely on top of CV12. It is a big feat for me. Especially since a few weeks ago I couldn’t even make it to the top of the stairs. Even with all the sweating and the freaking out, it was a major coup to have gotten to the top. So I celebrated in the most appropriate way I know – I did a little dance! The dance was replicated the next night when we went back up – this time via Option 2. Seeing that it was the harder option, the dance lasted a couple of seconds longer. And for the record, I wasn’t sweating as much the second time.
Getting up that conveyor meant a lot – anyone who gets vertigo and starts to wobble with heights will understand how much of an achievement that was. What meant more was that someone had actually taken the time to put me through my paces. Since I have started on site I am slowly getting used to heights. Every area has higher stairs and higher vantage points and my tolerance gets better. Being so excited at this achievement, I of course told everyone. Bless my crew; they gave the appropriate response – words of encouragement and pats on the back, with a dash of smarty pants from some of course! Smarty pants or not, I will take from this experience the positivity of the guys and the support I get from them. Even in the lamest of challenges and achievements they have been there for me.
There was a 12 hour shutdown during one of the days this swing. When we came on for night shift, it was time to wake the plant up. I have never been responsible for an area which requires thorough checking during start up. The reagents section is a bit of an offshoot to the rest of the plant and doesn’t really get affected by a shutdown. Well, it hasn’t yet anyway. It seems to be business as usual there even after a shutdown. With the magnetic separators (mag seps) I had to check that everything was running steadily on water before the feed (ore) started. Basically, I had to look at the actual mag seps and follow the line to ensure that whatever was coming into the section was going through the right pipes and into the appropriate tank. It was exciting to be involved in the whole process. Mind you, it wasn’t as straightforward as it should have been since there was a niggly electrical issue that kept everything from starting up as expected. But I guess that’s the stage that the project is in. Once it has been up and running for ages and all the instrumentation online, it should be a lot smoother.
I also got to work on changing out screen panels this swing. This involves the use of a hammer, screwdriver, crowbar, pliers, and Windex; a fair bit of crawling around as you have to get under a bar to get to the other side of the screen, and of course muscles. Muscles for leveraging the crowbar or pliers to get the screens loose, pulling the screens off, and then smashing the new ones into place. Easy enough right? Yeah right. Nothing is ever easy enough, especially for Miss No Muscles me! There was a fair bit of sweat involved in changing the screens. I think you guys have surmised by now that I am a fish out of water in this operator world. Nothing comes naturally and everything involved falls under my area of weaknesses (i.e. muscles, tools, technical knowledge and operator sensibility/common sense). However, working on those screens that night, playing around with a hammer and everything else, it felt comfortable. I was slow and fairly hopeless but heck it was interesting. That night pretty much sums up the last few months – it is a very different environment to what I have been exposed to in the past, very different day to day tasks involved, but somehow it feels right, it’s a lot of fun, extremely challenging and very rewarding.