Everyone gets asked questions about their job. Questions from family, friends and others who are just generally interested. The basic fabric of my job is no different to most peoples; but what is different is where I actually work and the fact I live in an accommodation complex far from home….actually far from anything at all!
To those who have never experienced a remote construction site or resources operation, this is a very foreign and hard to conceptualise environment. Elements of life that I take for granted, others find hard to believe. This is my view every morning…
In my ‘What it Means to Work Away from Home’ blog, I explained that my motivation for building One Minute Closer was through 3 questions I was continually asked. So…in this and upcoming blog entries, I will attempt to answer some of the other questions I am asked (yes I actually write them down when I hear them…not awkward at all!).
Let’s start with a question from my sister.
Q. How do you work 7 days a week? What’s that like?
A. Well to be honest, every day tends to be radically different for me and is one of the reasons can firstly; work for weeks in a row and secondly; why I keep coming back for more! At the level of the project and organisation at which I work, it’s by no means a daily grind.
It’s a very dynamic working environment and no matter how hard we try to plan and schedule; it tends to be very reactive. I am exposed to the most senior ranks of the project; the high level planning, discussions and hissy fits that take place between the grown-ups. I also spend a lot of time at the coal face with the teams who are executing the works. I report on progress, hold ups, safety and employee relations; to name a few.
I have direct interface into other departmental teams, client teams, client contractors and site HSSE. My job my maybe many things but it is certainly not mundane, boring or groundhog day!
Q. Do you live at the actual job site? As in, get out of bed & walk to your office or is it a bus situation?
A. Here the camp is approx. 4 kms from site so buses to and from work are supplied. The accommodation in which I curre
ntly am is on the walking track so whenever I can I will run or walk home. It’s a great way to finish the day or warm up for some more training when I get back! (view on the morning and afternoon bus…and yes I draw on my boots during meetings).
Previous accommodation I have experienced has been closer to the job site…as in get out of bed and walk to the offices. But even with these, the site offices are usually off site and due to pedestrian access; mostly require you to drive or bus to and from. Of course off shore facilities are slightly different with the accommodation being close, but even these sites are designed and built with safety top of mind; meaning accommodation and operational facilities are well segregated.
Q. Do you have your own room?
A. Yes, I do have my own room. In some camps I have stayed in, there has been a requirement to either share a room (day / night shift) or to share a common bathroom. I have experienced both and it works fine as most people have the respect for the others privacy and property. Typically I have had the same room for my entire rotation but occasionally you will be swapped out but again, it’s not such a big deal.
Q. What size bed do you have? I mean you’re a big guy, so do they cram you in a single bed?
A. Yes…yes they do. The beds in my current accommodation camp are single beds, as were the ones in my last camp. Most camps I have stayed in are single or king single but in my final role of the last project I had a permanent room with a double bed. Single is OK, you get used to it. As long as it is semi comfortable and I have a pillow; it’s just a place to sleep.
Q. What facilities are available in your room for cooking?
A. In all the camps I’ve stayed in, there are no facilities for cooking in your room. Some have BBQ facilities but that’s about it. All food prep is done in the kitchen and food is served in a central mess..or two. I have stayed in hotel rooms when on rotation and away for one off trips; training, testing etc, and these tend to be self-contained with basic kitchen facilities. This makes a nice change to be able to prepare a simple meal every now and then.
A. Yes, I haven’t share a bathroom for a little while now. I have stayed in accommodation where the bathroom was shared between 2 rooms and a couple where it was common with shower cubicles.
Q. Is there a communal Laundromat? Is there like laundry etiquette?
A. Yes and yes. Most accommodations I’ve stayed in have small communal laundries; 3-8 machines (washers and dryers) in each but my last one was one big laundry for 1200 people. General etiquette, I’m pretty sure, is that you can change someone’s clothes out of a washer into a dryer or remove from a dryer and place in a neat pile if you need a machine.
As you can imagine at peak times the machines are scarce and this seems to work OK. I have a couple of issues with this as usually I have gym clothes (Under Armour etc) and boardies (quick drys) that I don’t like to put into the dryer so I always try and do my washing later at nights. I try to time my change to the dryer before I go to bed and then collect first thing in the morning….if I remember. I’ve worn wet shirts to work on way more than one occasion…
If I am taking someone’s clothes out of the dryer I also like to folder them up and leave them in a neat pile; I hate when I find all my clothes scattered across the laundry. Just think that this is good manners and have never heard anyone complain!
Q. Do you get Foxtel?
A. Yes, most camps I’ve stayed in have some kind of pay TV. Usually it’s the standard package of a couple of movie channels, a few sports channels, comedy, FOX8, Discovery, NatGeo etc. Usually you get also some free to air channels and now with digital the choice is pretty good.
With the more modern facilities, most people have hard drives or depending how good the internet is, Apple TV so I never really am stuck for TV selection. Not that I watch too much but is always good for when you are sick or a lazy, rainy Sunday afternoon.
I did experiment with mini-series’ about a year ago and spent every night for weeks trying to get as many tips from Walter White and Jessie Pinkman on how to run a successful Meth empire. Wasn’t really a viable career option so now I’m onto Banshee.
Q. What time do you start/finish work?
A. I start work at 500 and usually finish anytime between 1700 and 1900. This is pretty standard for my current and previous roles. This can vary across site with start times being 600-630 and most of the crew finished by 1700.
Q. What’s a normal ‘swing’?
A. My normal swing now is 26/9 – 26 days on and 9 days off. Others I have worked are 10/4, 19/9.
Q. Do you really wear Hi Vis all the time?
A. Yes. I wear Hi Vis every day while at work. This includes fire retardant long pants, long sleeve shirt, safety glasses and boots. Gloves are also required most places as well as a hard hat. Hi Vis is required in all areas here except in accommodation areas; including if you go for a road run outside of camp in designated tracks. Over half my day, three quarters of the year is spent wearing hi vis!
Q. Are people social out at night or does everybody just hang in their rooms?
Q. Do you have ‘events’ out there? Like special dinners or trivia nights or anything?
Q. Can you play sport out there? Like a social touch footy team?
A. Some people are and some not so much. At this camp, as with most others there is plenty to keep you occupied after hours; outside your room. There’s the obvious like the gym, running or outside exercise.
Because of the facilities here there is boot camp, organised touch footy, soccer, swimming, tennis, frizby, netball and basketball (check out FB timeline for netball shots). There are also organised events like trivia and Sundays there is usually some kind of acoustic show or karaoke in the wet mess (bar). There are many people who bring instruments out also and music rooms are available to practice / play.
Most camps are fairly social with wet mess (bars) facilities and common areas; some with BBQs. I guess at the end of the day you have the opportunity to be as social or otherwise as you feel like being.
So I hope that gives you some insight into life away from home in an accommodation camp, on a resources construction site. I have plenty more questions written down so watch this space for more FAQs. Also, if you think I can answer one that you have, please send me an email on firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on Facebook.
See also an excellent article written by Amanda on her visit to a camp complex; written from the perspective of a partner.
Until the next instalment, keep safe and stay connected!