How to ‘come out of there alive’….


Many readers have been asking for more ‘real’ and practical stuff and here it is:

How to ‘come out of there alive’….

By Drewie: Part Two of “She may not come out of there alive…”


Here is the promised follow up to:

This is a true story, for those of you who have been asking. For future reference, I choose to only write about what I have experienced, that is my ‘data’.

‘Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.’~ Mark Twain

So the ‘safety stand down’, spoken of in my previous post, was on a power station construction site. It was the way forward as far as the EPCM Company running the show was concerned.

It was not the first for this project and it would not be the last.

This was no ordinary show.

The Client representative even had the circus theme music as his ring tone: it really was that ‘interesting’.

Sadly this saying was prevalent behind closed doors:

‘We may not have the biggest circus, but we have the best clowns.’

clip_image004Needless to say the EPCM Company did not last to the end of the project and actually went bust to my recollection.

My time there was very challenging, yet tempered by some great people banding together in a turbulent time.

That company did make bloody good pens though! We still talk about that to this day.

Now this story is in no way an endorsement for procedural review as an effective method to reduce risk. Procedures have their place, yet when mixed with humans… well let us car park that on for another chat.

Back to the topic at hand. Remember that the challenge was:

To deliver a ‘procedural review’ to a room full of angry riggers and crane operators. They had had several incidents in the previous 2 weeks.

Knowing the mood of the site therefore armed with the likely mood of the room, I figured the best way to prepare was to utilise this resource:

That being front of mind, the ‘BPs’ (quiet achievers) were approached one by one then asked to come for a chat just before the review was about to commence.

We spent about 20 minutes together. I had not spent much time with them previous to that yet seemed to gain instant rapport, perhaps by saying something along the lines of,

“Look you guys are the experts here, I would like to tap into your extensive knowledge as I could really use your help”

Not professing to be an expert, yet it was not my first rodeo:

We then went over the said procedure/s together with me pointing out questions I had on certain elements in the procedure which had been highlighted (literally) and gave them a copy.

It freaked them out a little that the only parts of the documents (ridiculously large and laborious) which really didn’t ring true for me……..didn’t ring true for them either. It was all about significant lifts etc.

clip_image008The strategy was to clarify with the crane operator and the 3 riggers how we might address this possible confusion and no doubt questions which may come up in the room when we got to that part of the procedure. Yes the expectation was to go through every word on every page OMG what a joke: Cue circus music…..

That did not happen and as long as my arse points to the ground it never will – not with a procedure that bloody long, and there were 3 of them. (Though every person who entered that room left with a set of the full documents and signed off on that fact.)

Instead we found the critical elements together and skimmed over the rest. This was always the intention yet naturally let the 4 influential ‘leaders’ in the chat before the review ‘come up with that idea.’

Cutting a very long story short:

I asked the 4 guys if I could throw to them early in the piece to break down the barriers in the crowd (they were all looked up to) and to show the rest of them that engaging with this process was cool.

They assured me they would ‘have my back’ if the boys got restless. Perfect.

It worked an absolute treat. The opening statement to the room went something like this:

‘Look I know you don’t want to be here, perhaps I don’t either, yet here we are for the next 4 hours.

(The elephant in the room needed to be addressed)

The best news is no one has been hurt….yet.

These procedures need help, badly.

You know what you are doing, you do it every day.

How about we have a crack at actually improving them’.

No one in the room knew that their 4 mates had been with me just minutes before, so when they started piping up immediately with comments like ‘Yeah bout time we had a say instead of some pen pusher’ and

‘Most of us, if we admit it, haven’t even laid eyes on those procedures before.’ It showed everyone else that they were on board.

clip_image010So that set the scene for engagement and lively debate did occur, yet they came up with some great changes and ideas to simplify and clarify for the future. The secret little thumbs up I spotted from one of the 4 about 5 minutes in really warmed my heart and gave me more confidence that I may indeed ‘get out of there alive.

It also inspired me to be even bolder and suggest that we broke up into groups, change the table lay out in the room and go through sections of the documents then present back to the room.

After a stunned silence, action stations!

Everyone started dragging chairs and tables around and laughing at the prospect.

The anger had vanished and the work had begun.

The groups all nominated a speaker to present their section for familiarisation and with suggested changes and the reasons why. It was a beautiful thing.

It was very memorable and mutual respect was given by all.

My new ‘protectors’ on site looked after me from that day forth.

The power of relationship building, mutual trust and respect was not lost on me.

This experience has stayed with me for many years and that strategy has been used in various forms with the same successful results.

No doubt many of you have used similar tactics to achieve a desired outcome. Not just before a review or presentation, yet in many various scenarios the same basic tactics work:

The ‘meetings’ before the meeting.

The one on ones before the group engagement.

The belief that giving a crew, (even an angry one), the right environment and opportunity, they may show what they are capable of when given a chance.

Something ‘shifted’ that day, in me and I believe in the crew. Subtle yet powerful. For me it was:

There is always a better way.

It does not have to be ‘us’ and ‘them,’ that has never worked and never will.

If you have tried a similar approach please feel free to share your experience and the outcome.

If you have not tried this sort of approach, give it a crack. Let me know how it goes.

If you have tried yet not succeeded, please don’t give up. Perhaps adjust your approach.

Yes it always starts with ‘us’ first.

Be the ‘Adult’ not the ‘Parent’ and we may have less ‘children.’ Hard Hat Mentor

clip_image012Possibly ‘Transactional Analysis’ (Eric Berne) can be the subject of the next post……Yet because I am Drewie we shall call it Ego States.

Stay safe and keep smilin’

Cheers HHM



‘Fly in Fly out Life’ Mentor: supporting on-site teams + Women in ‘boots’ Mentor. at Hard Hat Mentor

Latest posts by Drewie (see all)

Drewie has worked her way up through the ranks on remote FIFO sites all over Australia and one project in Canada to date. With a career spanning 30 years, she estimates, a culminated 5 years 'off' trying the 'other life’ here and there in the hospitality and fitness industries. Her first day on a remote site was her milestone 18th birthday and she also celebrated her 21st living in a donga and blowing the candles out on the cake at the wetty. Apparently if her upcoming 50th ends up being the same scenario, that would be ok too. “Though my family may have other ideas about that”. She is currently and shall continue working with Clive Lloyd's team at GYST Consulting where Values Based Safety - using 'The Care Factor' approach to Culture development and Authentic Leadership are front and centre. The big news is that 'Hard Hat Mentor', Drewies’ own consultancy, is now in an exciting development phase where all energy and focus shall be channelled into two causes very close to her heart. The first will be supporting on-site leadership/teams/work crews and individuals to thrive in the, at times, very challenging FIFO work and lifestyle. The second is to be a mentor to the gutsy 'Women in Boots' who may need a hand now and then in a male dominated arena with its own unique set of bumps in the road to navigate. Drewie says, “One cannot spend so very long working remotely on gruelling rosters without picking up some wisdom along the way, albeit at times seemingly from osmosis alone! There are many hard won lessons we learn in such a unique environment, mine are demanding to be shared now, very loudly, they refuse to be ignored, so my new journey begins.' Drewie has also taken her first steps to study ‘The Social Psychology of Risk’ formally and has a new skip in her step due to all the knowledge to be gained and shared in the future.

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