Pragmatic 36A: Prevailing Wind Direction Follow-up 1

7 December, 2014


Follow up (Part A) to Prevailing Wind Direction where we address different personality types and how they cope with remote work, safety cultures around the world and recent FIFO suicides.

Transcript available
This is Pragmatic Follow-Up Part A for Episode 36, Prevailing Wind Direction. I'm John Chidjie and joining me is Vic Hudson. How's it going Vic? I'm good John, how are you? I'm very well, thank you. Pragmatic Follow-Up for the month of November is sponsored by Harvest. Harvest lets you start and stop a timer for any task you might be doing, anywhere you might be doing it, mobile device, desktop, web browser and so on, so you can keep track of your time. your time. If you're doing client work, it's handy to know what projects and tasks are taking your time. But even better, you can use that information to create invoices directly through harvest, which integrates easily with PayPal and Stripe. Check out harvest at get harvest or one and sign up for a free 30 day trial and start tracking your time and invoicing others simply and painlessly. Once your 30 day trial is over, and you've realized how great harvest is use the coupon code pragmatic at checkout and you'll also save 50% off your first month and that applies to any of their plans. Hurry though, because this offer expires January 15th, 2015. So be quick. Okay, had some really good follow-up to this episode from a bunch of engineers and a few other people as well that do a bit of site work. So, fans show and regular feedback contributor, Russ Newcomer, he worked for a, wrote in via the feedback form and said, told me about his experience working in a civilian non-government organisation in a conflict zone for about three years. I won't go into the detail as to which one, it's not necessarily relevant, but he noted about how people would handle the dynamic of being in a remote situation where flexibility was not great. So, in terms of personal flexibilities and personal freedom, being able to just go out to the corner shop, Like, there was no corner shop, you know what I mean, right? Yeah. So, and we talked about this in the episode and the contributing factors towards depression, different other things, consequences of working on site as a fly in, fly out, drive in, drive out, whatever. Anyway, so he noted that his observation was a lot of it came back to whether they were an introvert or an extrovert, which is a dynamic that I didn't consider during the episode. And it's definitely worth exploring. His supposition was that extroverts typically want to be around new people or at least more people than you would get in that situation. And the lack of that outlet caused them some social friction. And- Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, because you know what extroverts are like, you know, they want to- Yep. Yeah. The life of the party kind of thing and always interacting with people and so on. But if you've got a fixed- They really thrive on all that external stimulation, too. Yeah, exactly. And so, those people will naturally be very unhappy in that environment. and something I hadn't really considered. But he also then went on to talk about people's motivations for being in that situation. So people that had, again, his supposition, people who had an external reason for being there versus people who wanted to be there for the adventure or just for the money. So people that were there for the money generally burned out pretty quick and they started doing a pretty bad job and that caused social problems with the interactions with other people. And generally, those people would pack up and pack it in and go home and realise the money wasn't everything, which I did sort of talk about in the main episode. People that are there for the adventure, you know, end up realising there really wasn't much adventure and it was just a daily grind like any other. It's just that you had lots of restrictions on what you could and couldn't do. So, you know, in other words, the shine wore off rather quickly, which I absolutely have observed myself in others, and even to some degree myself in certain situation. So the third one, which he mentioned in that list was people that had a strong external reason for being there and he broke it down a bit further, whether it was, he goes on to say whether it was for altruistic reasons, religious reasons, any reason that's not entirely self-interest motivated. In other words, you know, like not specifically for money, but for what you were going to do with that money, like I'm here to make the money so that I can do blah. And yeah, his examples were, you know, buy a new car, pay off a car, buy a house, pay off a house, whatever, you know. And those people had that motivation, that they were more inclined. A goal. Yes. And exactly. And that goal made them more inclined to adjust and manage in that environment better than the other people, because they had something that was sort of keeping them there. And I absolutely- There's a light at the end of their tunnel. Yeah, absolutely. And with a goal and a light at the end of their tunnel, they can see, "Oh, that's where I'm going. That's what I can stay focused. I can stay here and I can continue to go through this, you know, call it an ordeal if you like. Ordeal for some. Some people don't see it as an ordeal. I think it's awesome. Either way, you want to choose to look at it. And personally, I found that I've been more stable in my employment, for example, since I've been married with kids and I've had a mortgage. It definitely changes your perspective. Whereas previously I would be, "Oh, I'm kind of bored here. I think I'll just pull up the stakes and change companies. Why not?" You know, whereas now- And it has been the case of, you know, for 12 years now, 13 years almost, that it's like, "Well, hang on. I can't just do that. I've got to consider my responsibilities." And it changes a lot of things. And that motivator also applies when you're, you know, flying in, flying out to one of these situations. you know, because obviously you've got that extra motivation and and that keeps you focused and you put up with a lot more rubbish in order to get to where you you know, to put up with it, to continue doing that. So again, thank you Russ for that feedback. I also had some feedback from a gentleman by the name of Max Nodwell, who's a Canadian from British Columbia. So lovely part of the world. I went there a few times. And anyway, he was ironically, oh, ironically, interestingly listening to that episode while he was actually working at a remote mine construction site near Port Lincoln in South Australia. Now, he said he was expecting in this particular to comment, he was when he wrote this email, this is going back a few weeks ago, actually a couple of months ago now. So, it's been a few months since I did that episode. So, it's older feedback, but, you know, feedback knows no limits. So, he was in Australia at that point for three and a half weeks and he considered that he'd be probably doing another two swings of a similar duration before the end of the project. So, he goes on to say that he's a chemical process engineer and he's been involved in mining and automation controls for the last decade. You know, within spending time away, one to eight weeks at a time, depending upon the location. He goes to list a few of them, including six months he spent at Mount Gordon, which is a gunpowder mine near Mount Isa. So, yeah, obviously you don't mind gunpowder. I'm talking about sulfur and all the other different components that go into making gunpowder. But anyway, that was Fly In, Fly Out. Fly In, Fly Out from Vancouver in four to six weeks swings. So, that's a long flight, but indeed. But one of his favourites was a place called Marikunga Mine, and that's in the Andes in Chile. In fact, he loved it so much, he called it, and I quote, an absolute hellhole. So, yeah, I say like it's quote unquote like. So, yeah, he had a great time. He goes- - Really enjoyed that one. Oh, yeah. There's an episode of Top Gear I mentioned in a previous episode, actually. In fact, I think it might have been this one where they drove up into the Andes really, really high in altitude and they started suffering from acute altitude sickness. So, he goes on to mention that he indeed did get mild altitude sickness when he was in Chile. And he said pretty much everyone did because they weren't used to it. And he goes on to describe some of the symptoms, which is fascinating. So, he said "it feels like a middling hangover for the first week. Then you just feel like bad word. After that, because it's hard to sleep, food tastes horrible. Oh, wait, it was horrible. Anyway. And you get dehydrated in a heartbeat. Yeah. A few people experienced less serious symptoms, but then they were sent back down the hill right away and they were fine. He then noted that they were the lucky ones. So, yes. Anyway, noting, of course, that his wife is very understanding and that FaceTime also helps him to stay connected with his family, which just as I found in my case. He also- Just a brief shout out to a past show sponsor, to Lifex. He said, thank you very much. So, he took advantage of the discount code. So, thanks again to LIFX for sponsoring that episode. Anyway, so a few other comments he made around safety. We did touch on safety equipment. So, I'll throw this in as well as part of the feedback and that his perceptions of risk. He said that from his experience, people's perceptions of risk vary based on their culture. And absolutely that is true. I don't want to go and mention too many of the cultures 'cause I do think that it's very much a generalization. However, you can choose to insert whatever your preconceptions or misconceptions may be based on your thoughts about whether or not a specific culture may or may not be predisposed to a certain kind of behaviour. Anyway. But I will say Western cultures, this is what he said in his email, Western cultures. I will mention that one. I prefer to think of it as not Western culture specifically, but more safety conscious engineering cultures, which is typically Western cultures, but not all. And certainly, there are plenty of, you know, company cultures within the Western- I get- well, you would call them a Western company, but here's the thing, they don't have a good safety culture. So, I think it's sort of difficult to make those sorts of blanket statements. But anyway, where you have tight safety regulations, he noted that many people still sneak in a pair of Oakley sunglasses instead of certified safety glasses. Yeah. Which I have witnessed many times, so I completely agree with that. A lot of people say, oh, but I'm wearing wrap around glasses, so that's good. Thumbs up. No, they need to be shatterproof and so on and resistant to high temperatures and a whole bunch of different criteria to be actually certified safety glasses. So, no, just because it's wrapped around your eyes doesn't mean it's not going to shatter into a thousand little shards of glass and cut your eyeballs to pieces. Especially if they get hit just right. It's worse than not having anything on at all. That's exactly right. So, yeah. Yeah, so got to have the right safety glasses, people. Anyway, he noticed another nationality would happily mix caustic soda without wearing safety glasses at all. Like, okay, not working with them. There's another group of cultures where they're perfectly fine working at heights without harnesses. And in some places, they also have a bizarre lockout tagout system wherein each person puts a lock on the power supply, then they give their key to the supervisor, not a lock in box, mind you, just hand it over to that guy for safekeeping. These are his words instead of holding it in their own pocket, because that's normally what you would do is you would do your lock out, you put your personalized lock on this on the on the circuit breaker, let's say to say, yes, the power has been isolated and you keep the key on your person so that nobody turns it back on but you. Exactly. So anyway, never mind that. And he also noted that almost nobody in his line of work bothers with hearing protection. Yeah, well, more for them. Hands up, Mr. You know, John has tinnitus. So, yeah, wear your damn hearing protection, kids. Good God. Anyway, moving on. Strangely, he notes hard hats have never been a problem. And I think that's mainly because as he points out that they're very visible and they portray a bit of rough and tumble in the wearer. Don't know about the second bit, definitely the visible one. It's hard to sneak by without a hard hat. It's pretty noticeable. Safety glasses from a distance, if I'm wearing a pair of Oakley's, they could be mistaken, I guess, for safety glasses or you're wearing something on your eyes. And hearing protection, the in-ear foam earbud earplugs, you know, it's almost impossible to tell from, you know, 50 yards away whether or not someone's wearing hearing protection, but you can tell if they're wearing a hard hat or not. So, I think it's more about the visibility thing. And the final note about the safety in the PPE is that his take on it is that people think that they're invincible until they're proven otherwise. Very true. It'll never happen to me, right? We're all Superman until the day we're not. No, Superman. Anyway, indeed. So if you like scrubs, although that song was... Yeah, never mind. All right. OK. Fans of the show, Tristan Lostra and Andrew Canyon on via Twitter, I hope I pronounced Andrew's name correctly. They commented that they could not do fly in, fly out work for many of the reasons I I stated in the episode, very common sentiment from people. You know, I say people need to consider all of the dangers of the fly and fly at work. And I mean that, of course, there are plenty of people that have thought about it and have intentionally not gotten involved in fly and fly out. And my hat is off to you all. Uh, if you can, um, you know, survive without having to do fly and fly at work, especially in engineering, then fantastic. Uh, I do not recommend it. Uh, it's eyeopening. It's an interesting experience, but if you're going to do it, do it when you're young, when you're not attached. It's a young, as they say in the industry, it's a young man's game, a young individual's game to be gender non-specific. And I'm glad that other people have thought it through and have chosen a path that avoids it. So anyway. Okay. Now, just to wrap up on a somewhat more somber note, I mentioned the mental effects of prolonged work in isolation and how that can lead to depression and suicide and the high suicide rates of fly and fly out workers compared to the general populace, even within the engineering discipline. So, within the project that I'm working on at the moment, it's a huge project and it's employing lots of subcontractors across a massive physical area, all from different backgrounds, different walks of life. Some people are used to the fly in, fly out lifestyle and some people aren't. Some people are just going there because that's where the work is and they're just not used to the isolation. Yeah. So, since the episode aired on the 8th of September on our project, two lives have been lost. Neither individual worked directly for the project itself, they were part of an extended set of contractors and subcontractors that were living on the remote sites to do their jobs for extended periods of times. They fit basically the criteria that I suggested for reasons that would lead to this sort of conclusion. For reasons I imagine out of respect for their families and ongoing investigation into their passing, they have full details of not being released and may never be released beyond family members. And besides which, I don't think it's really in good taste to discuss those details. Irrespective whether or not- The question in my mind is whether or not these two young men would have taken their lives outside of the remote locations that they were based in, we'll never know. One of the two has not been ruled as intentional. It could have been accidental, but that's all I know. Yeah. So, the reason I mention this, I know that some people listen to this episode and I'll say, well, that's fine for people that are in that situation, you know, and I get that. But the bottom line is that this is actually a serious issue and it's the sort of thing that doesn't get a heck of a lot of visibility. And the whole reason that I talked about this in the first place is because people just don't understand. All they do is they get the gas, they fire up the stove or the heater or whatever, and away they go. And they don't have any idea where it comes from, how it's extracted, the people that built all of this infrastructure, that maintain this infrastructure, that bring them all of this energy that is turn on tap and away they go. Some people say, well, it doesn't matter because I am as a consumer and I don't care. But what bugs me is that, you know, there are people that have gone through a lot to bring this to them. And it just doesn't seem to be visibility of that. And I think that there should be. You know, I'm not saying it has to be headline news every single day and be terribly depressing, but, you know, it just some degree of awareness that this happens and it's happened on the project that I'm working on right now. It's real. It happens. So, if you are in this situation or you're in a situation like this and you're working remotely for extended periods of time and you do become depressed And honestly, there are plenty of places that you can turn to just talk to someone, don't do anything stupid. Yeah. The thing is, and this... I honestly believe that no one is truly alone unless they choose to be. So, you can make the choice not to be alone and you can choose if you are going through a difficult time to talk to someone about it. And that is the hardest part, but you need to do it You need to talk to someone
Duration 17 minutes and 55 seconds Direct Download
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Show Notes

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Vic Hudson

Vic Hudson

Vic is the host of the App Story Podcast and is the developer behind Money Pilot for iOS.

John Chidgey

John Chidgey

John is an Electrical, Instrumentation and Control Systems Engineer, software developer, podcaster, vocal actor and runs TechDistortion and the Engineered Network. John is a Chartered Professional Engineer in both Electrical Engineering and Information, Telecommunications and Electronics Engineering (ITEE) and a semi-regular conference speaker.

John has produced and appeared on many podcasts including Pragmatic and Causality and is available for hire for Vocal Acting or advertising. He has experience and interest in HMI Design, Alarm Management, Cyber-security and Root Cause Analysis.

You can find him on the Fediverse and on Twitter.