There are many adjectives that Warren, our super-installer, used to describe his install trip up to Dampier. One stands out – HOT! Heat management was a critical factor during the installation. Despite being programmed originally to fall in the cooler months, the project was delayed for reasons beyond our control (plus a rather major cylone warning). As a result of this install our Safety Reps meeting last month covered heat management strategies which was then taken to May's Toolbox meeting for discussion. Needless to say there will be a few new initiatives being introduced eg. urine charts, thermometer and frozen electrolyte drinks next summer. Hydration is the key.
The Installation - Warren's Story
To follow is Warren's version of events which you may want to take the time to enjoy over a cup of tea (or frozen electrolyte drink!) - a steamy recount no less!:-
"As an installer you have to expect some pretty tough days; we go into some testing areas and its heavy going sometimes, being able to overcome and adapt is a trait of quality tradies and its part of why I love doing it so much...(Im pretty good at it too!). This install however tested every trick, tool and thought I had, and at times I doubted whether I could complete it. But from the comfort of my own house back in Perth, in a shady, cool spot, I am proud to say I did.
Small alarm bells rang when we loaded the truck for the trek to Dampier... As the truck drove off I had mixed feelings about what condition these signs would be in when I next saw them over 1500 kms up the track.... Then the install was delayed by a month as the area went on cyclone watch, but finally we were there.
DAY 1: I got my first look at the load in Dampier on the first afternoon (21/3) and it was (thankfully) not too bad. There had been some small load shift with minimal damage and weather had modified the look somewhat but overall pretty good... dodged a bullet there!
The site is a turn-in area at the start of Dampier... RED DOG is a metal sculpture on a big rock, there are various plaques and stories on this rock, surrounding him were old story boards, very old structures and shitloads of blue metal pebbles. There are lovely shady trees on the perimeter of the area (these would be my lifesaver in future days). Fencing contractors, digging contractors (AQUA PRO), Traffic controllers and a stream of Rio Tinto affiliates all arrived as planned on morning 1... Andrew had everything planned very well. Completed the obligatory paper work, inductions, breath testing and began removal.
Red Dog got his own fence around him and was always well protected (I think he would've had the shits with it by about Day 3 tho'!!). Removal went fairly well with just a few standard issues (retic, pipes, rocks) and digging began. Our plans showed round pier footings at various depths... one look at the area and that idea was obviously not possible so pad footings were then planned.
NOTE: exposed rock in this area of Australia has been tested to be the HARDEST on earth!
The weather on day 1 was actually quite nice, overcast and breezy and I was lulled into a false sense of security about it... stupidly! Temp got to about 37 degrees. Only.
DAY 4: Approximately 7.2 cubic metres of concrete was poured into footings without too much incident. All ready for prep and install. Temp was 43 degrees at 10am with humidity at 60%... concrete was hard in about 15 minutes...I was buggered in about 10... lucky it was just concreting.
DAY 6: I had always planned for this to be a big day... lots to achieve. I was right! Removal of jigs, setting heights and first unloads and install of signs went perfectly... everyone brought their A game... until we got lower into the signage packs! Every piece of plastic wrap and foam had melted itself onto every f****g sign so each one had to be removed from truck scraped and cleaned before install onto footings (without damaging).
We did this on the bitumen area in front of caged RED DOG...I first noticed the heat when my boots were melting into the bitumen, it was 11am. A temp check showed 44 degrees but it had to be 60 coming off the tarmac and signs, you could only work for minutes near this before dizzyness and heat stress fatigue grabbed you... even the local blokes like Lefty!
Needless to say it was pretty slow going from that point on... I felt like I was going to die on numerous occasions and even planned a crawling pose near RED DOG for my ultimate demise... seriously! It takes some serious pushing of ones self to continue in these conditions... geeezz it was hard BUT because we had set jigs and levels so well, most of the signage clunked snugly into perfect position. I could write pages on the little things that hindered us but at about 4.30 all signage was roughly in place. Without doubt the toughest day at work I have ever had!
EPILOGUE: Warren returned home to Perth safely on DAY 8.
There are many take-outs from this project. In the final wrap the three that have the most significance to me are:
1. Red Dog was a great symbolic project to be involved in - what a priveledge to represent the amazing canine;
2. Heat management is a crucial element when working in extreme temperatures and we have all benefited from Warren's tips on how to mitigate fatigue for future projects;
3. Warren once more has proved that when life puts you in tough situations, he will say "Just try me"!