I am not ok…

How often do you say that?

I am not ok…

For a while there, I was not ok… On paper, things looked pretty good. I was working well, my home life and finances were in order and I was fit. My brain just wasn’t feeling it. I buried my hurt and sadness in long runs at the gym and my smiles rarely touched by eyes.

While my productivity at work wasn’t affected, my colleagues noticed my mood shift. I was quiet and impatient, preferring headphones and solo site visits over collaborative working.

So, they sent me on to a Mates in Construction training course. These courses are designed to help people spot suicide tendencies in their team mates and to empower them to reach out support their colleagues. Normally, I would be involved in these programs and would volunteer to participate but I passed the sign on sheet as I just didn’t have the emotional capacity. When my name was read out as a participant, I was surprised. I has been nominated by my coworkers, partly out of concern for my welfare and because they thought that I had missed putting my name on the list, not that I had actively chosen not to participate.

The course was a good brain reset. An opportunity to reframe my space and gain some perspective. It allowed connections outside my normal work group and gave me some tools for initiating conversation. It’s a great course provide free of charge to companies and supported by industry bodies such a BERT, BIRST and Reddifund  

If you have an opportunity to participate or encourage the course at your work place, please do… If you see someone who looks not quite themselves, please say something, for the love of life, just ask… Are you ok?

x S

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Industry Slow Down

There has been a overall industry slow down in the last few months. The work is drying up and for those companies with ongoing projects, their cash cow clients have become financially leaner.

For my company, we have some small on-going projects but our largest project is ramping down. So far, over 75 people have been made redundant. Our project is creeping closer to site mobilisation but we can’t accommodate all of the employees recently out of work.

Unfortunately, when there is lots of work, people fall through the cracks, people with not-quite the right skill set or a less-than-desirable attitudes. During redundancies, these people should be the first to go if management have been keeping a close eye on things. Also typically made redundant are a few quiet achieves who are let go purely because management don’t know them by name when confronted with a list of 300 staff.

As our project is ramping up, we’ve been asked to accommodate some of these people. We are bring on those people with strong skill set and good work ethic but what about the others? Industrial relations say we have to find them work but what if they weren’t good workers to begin with? Tricksy…

I’m glad I’m not recruiting or reading resumes but it has been nice to be asked to provide comments on those people I have worked with before. The space and time between working with them has made it easier to be objective on the possible fits for our project requirements. The success of the project has a bearing on my professional reputation and the company’s ability to win projects in the future so employing the right people is important.

I hope that by employing strong, capable crews and recognising their worth to the company we can build a project culture that is supportive and productive, better for everyone’s interests.

x S

PS most companies offer access to an employees assistance program to help support those recently made redundant. Other services that might help include LifeLine 13 11 14; Building Employees Redundancy Trust 1300 261 114 or FairWork Australia

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Filed under Conflicts, Day-to-Day, Relationships

Radio Calisthenics

While I’m in the project development stage, I’ve been sharing an office space with our joint venture partners, a Chinese national company. There are benefits to this… I’m learning little bits of Chinese, the view from the lunch area is terrific and we do Radio Calisthenics.

Twice a day, around morning tea and afternoon tea, we get up from our desks and complete two rounds of a four-minute exercise program. Some coordination is required combining arm waving, lunges, twists and side bends. I find it absolutely hilarious and invigorating to complete. I have noticed that the majority of my Caucasian colleagues don’t participate, even if I give them a little gentle ribbing. I understand that it is a Chinese government initiative to get the workforce up a moving a few time a day which is why the instructions are broadcast over the radio.

I’ve struggled to find a good video that shows all the moves but this one comes close to the majority of the moves.

The first few times I felt ridiculous, with arms and legs going in all directions. My overall enthusiasm for something different gave something for our joint venture partners to giggle over especially since we have to overcome completely different languages. I’ve got the moves under control with a decent amount of proper form, which is more than I can say for the rest of the dancing queens, All we need now is some sweat bands and leg warmers.

We had a similar body activation for the field crews as an initiative from the onside medical services provider which we initially completed daily. Without someone to own it every morning and encourage good form and a few laughs, enthusiasm drops off until you only complete it in the presence of management.

I’m glad for the opportunity to participate in something a little different while I work in the office.

x S

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Filed under Day-to-Day, Fitness, Learning

Lunch Time


Here’s the view from the lunch room of my new office… It’s a small change from sitting on my esky, under a tree, on the side of the work site.

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July 25, 2014 · 10:10 am

Changing projects, again…

I’ve changed projects… Actually, I’ve been here for several months.

It started with a simple phone call and ended in a mass of tears. Not because I was being given an awesome opportunity to manage my own team but because I was leaving my people behind.

I hadn’t expected to find people who spoke my language on this project when I arrived in June last year. I hadn’t expected to love spending time with them and I certain didn’t expect to miss them either.

The new project is in the project development stage where we are nutting out our relationship with the client. We are defining roles, writing documents, putting in place systems to guide our operations. This has been one of the best aspects of the project so far is talking through opportunities to improve on previous successes.

The transition has been interesting. I’ve been working Monday to Friday, living in Brisbane, not my home town, relying on the kindness of friends who let me sleep in their spare rooms. Hopefully, we’ll head out to site soon and my FIFO life will return to normal.

x S

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FIFO Rosters

Image: Roanoke-Chowan Community College

Image: Roanoke-Chowan Community College

My roster is determined by my employer, usually to align with our client’s roster. Different sites have different rosters.  Rosters will also differ from employer to employer. I’ve worked a number of different roster schedules on FIFO. There are so many combinations. Some are determined in days such as the 8:6 or 10:4, others in weeks like 3:1 or 2:2. Some rosters include travel in and out on the employers time, others travel on your own time.

I’ve worked three different rosters. I started with a 2:2 even time roster with two weeks at work and two weeks at home. This was a great roster with heaps of time to myself. I was able to spend time with my family and spend time on projects around the house. I moved to a 3:1 project (see here and here) and then transitioned to a 19:9 roster, which allowed for two weekends a month at home but not as much free time to spend on my own projects.

My latest roster is a 10:4 split – ten days at work and four days at home. This is a roster typically reserved for management positions to ensure that you aren’t away from site for extended periods. It has its advantages of being home every second weekend but it makes it hard to settle into a routine. I have to keep up the early mornings when I’m at home otherwise it is too difficult to recover. It also means that I’m not home for Tuesday night trivia, ever! I usually have very little enthusiasm for any jobs around the house and spend the majority of time socializing.

Keep in mind that our working day is 12 hours long, working seven days a week, including public holidays. I earn salary which means I earn the same amount every week regardless of weekend or public holiday penalty rates. The crew work under an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement so they get penalty rates and paid for stand down days like where we can’t work due to rain. They also get built-in increases to their pay rates but they only get paid for the hours they work. So if you work an even time 2:2 roster, you’ll only get paid for six month of the year.

Last week, due to the Anzac Day public holiday, the crew earned more in a week than I did in a fortnight. I can’t tell you how much that stings when despite my university degrees and ten years’ experience, I earn less than a Trades Assistant with six month experience and no industry tickets.

Keep both the roster and the rate of pay in mind when you are considering wages or salary options provided by your employer.  On even time, 2:2 might be better but on 3:1, wages may be more lucrative.

Any questions, please let me know in the comments below…

x S

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Oversize Traffic

These images are from an oversize vehicle road movements that happened this week. The two trucks passed our office on Friday and then we got stuck behind them leaving town on Saturday. These trucks were oversize in all three ways – length, weight and height.

In central QLD, due to the growth in LNG industry, these oversize vehicle movements will occur more often (read more here). These movements were components of a gas train facility, which is used to convert natural gas into Liquefied Natural Gas in a nearby gas field.

This particular oversize vehicle road movement has a pilot vehicle responsible for contact all oncoming road users and ask them to move to the side of the road. These oversize vehicle were 7m wide so all traffic was being asked to move off the bitumen including fully loaded triple road trains. There were also two police escorts.

These trucks were 6m high so the cavalcade also included several vehicles from power company that could manually lift any lines crossing the road to allow the trucks to pass under them. These line lifts would be the most time consuming job of the oversize movement and caused significant delays in town. The loads are so wide they take up both lanes of the road so you can’t pass them safely so there are regular stops to allow the traffic from behind to clear. 

Each  oversize movement is accompanied with a plan that shows where each line lift is located, if required; any tight corners, sharp dips or long inclines as well as safe places to pull over to let traffic past with clear line of sight and stable ground. For this particular movement, there were some significant road works occurring near the airport, where the trucks took the new road, not the bypass as the bollards were too closely spaced. There was also a ford crossing and a tight bend on a narrow road that they had to navigate. We were struck behind them near the airport but my colleagues were stuck behind them on the local road, where it was apparently near impossible to pass the loads.

It’s amazing to see what can be built and transported as part of our works. It was also neat to get a toot from the trucks as we watched them pass our office from the hill beside our office.

x S


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Filed under Day-to-Day, Driving