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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How wearing a hard-hat can threaten wildlife…

This article by Terry Reis on ABC Environment hits the nail on the head. While safety is important, blanket safety requirements often inhibit us doing our jobs well. Companies update their systems and procedures as a result of incident investigations, adding more job steps to protect us. These can be easy like wearing gloves but more often they are administrative controls that take time or convoluted processes that very quickly forgotten or ignored as they aren’t practical.

We joke that we should remove safety procedures and equipment and let the Darwinian theory of Survival of the Fittest take over. This would quickly weed out crew members who can’t, but more often won’t, use common sense when completing simple tasks. There is always room to train new crew and build up the overall experience levels in the field but some crew members are simply taking the piss and doing dumb shit constantly.

A company focused on hiring competent and experienced staff would significantly reduce their need for costly, time-consuming safety processes and I’m suspecting that staff retention would remain high and incident rates would be low. Those in the mining industry know how important a total recordable injury frequency is when tendering for new projects…

x S

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March 19, 2014 · 3:14 am

Just stopping for a cold one…

Just stopping for a cold one...

This is one of the interesting pieces of history on site. It’s just a rusting fridge with an oil can and some cattle bones on top. It’s right next to an access track and a cattle yard so people drive past every day. It’s a good meeting place as everyone knows where you are talking about.

x S

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March 15, 2014 · 3:16 am

Wildlife Wednesday: Australian Jewel Spider

Jewel Spider

Jewel Spider


Austracantha minax is also known as the Australian Jewel Spider. It is an orb-weaving spider, creating wheel-shaped webs. They are common here especially in summer, most often found in dense undergrowth, creating a dense net over some bushes. They are small, 1-2cm, so it’s not uncommon to wander right past them and get them on your trousers. They aren’t poisonous but they are very pretty and the colour markings and spines vary significantly.

x S

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Money Matters


Image ReturnofKings

When I started working a FIFO roster, plenty of people had concerns about how this job would impact my life – specifically my relationship with my husband, family and friends, my health and my bank balance.

My bank balance has benefited significantly. N and I have paid off a significant potion of our mortgage and enjoyed two fabulous holidays, Antarctica and New York. I don’t buy scratchy toilet paper and I have my hair cut at a nice salon. Some weeks it already feels like I’m missing out so when I’m home, I buy the good stuff. It makes me appreciate the job that I have.

There is a part of me that refuses to cook boring home cooked meals when I am home as I’m only home for 9 out of 28 sleeps. I’d rather cook something completely different from the food served at work or eat at a restaurant. For a while, N got home delivered meals but now he prefers if I can cook up a few meals and place them in the freezer. I don’t mind this either – it’s thrifty and I can have some assurance that he is eating his vegetables. The man can not exist on baked beans and scrambled eggs alone.

There are a few things you should also keep in mind…

  • N and I save money because while I am at work I am not shopping, socializing or using household utilities.
  • I’m working 50% more hours than your traditional 9am-5pm worker so it makes sense that I should earn more.
  • I’m not spending two hours commuting to and from work each day or spending money on an office appropriate wardrobe.
  • I love shopping at thrift stores. I don’t have expensive clothing tastes or a need to drive a fuel-guzzling status car (especially when I am home so little)
  • My roster has limited flexibility so if your wedding / birthday or other event falls on a date when I’m at work, N will be attending the event solo.
  • Paying bills is fairly easy with online bill and banking with programmed or auto payments
  • Christmas and birthday present shopping is a huge, monumental pain-in-the-arse. I have to spend precious time at home trying to find the perfect gift when I could be hanging with you having coffee or I have to find the perfect gift online and pay for shipping. This year, I went online shopping and half my gifts didn’t arrive in time. Boo!
  • My contract doesn’t include maternity leave and I don’t get paid extra for working public holidays. If I’m sick, I don’t get to go home nor does anyone bring my tea and toast in bed but we do have a generous family leave policy (see my post from when my Gran died)

There are blokes at work who can’t afford to get a job in the city because their mortgages depend on the FIFO wage to make the monthly payments. Some blokes work FIFO to allow their wives to be stay-at-home mums but that has its own set of challenges for their relationships and health. FIFO jobs are a great way to get ahead financially provided you live within your means.

If you’ve got any other questions about the FIFO financial pros and cons, let me know.

x S

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Filed under Conflicts, Relationships