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My Name's Not Matthew - Dispatches from the Mind of a Miner (Day 2, Nov 01, 2012)

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Up at 5.30am, I didn't want to be late for orientation. Starts at 7am, but I needed to be there at 6.45am to have my photo taken. Considering it's only a ten minute walk, I've got plenty of time. I'm also exhausted. Last night at 10am I watched an episode of 'Game of Thrones' before bed. Four episodes later, it's 2am and I'd finished season 2.

I set my alarm for 6am and drifted back off to sleep. Then I'm up before my alarm, it's a whole lot lighter, and I realise I've set it for 6pm, not 6am, and it's now 6.40am. After a stop by the mess hall for some fruit, there's always time for a quick banana, I'm off across to the main accommodation site and the training room, for my onsite induction. I look over the piece of paper with the date, time and location. It's still 7am, it's still today, and if I miss the start, there's still no late admittance and I still get sent home.

There are signs for reception, accommodation blocks, toilet blocks, buses, the gym, medical, the dining room, meeting rooms, car park and the wet mess. Which is the bar and games room, not where they film pornos. Maybe that happens after the bar closes, and maybe tonight I'll make my shiv.

No sign for the induction room. Now if they needed one sign, you think that'd be it. If somebody needs directions, it's the person who's just arrived and hasn't been told anything, because they haven't yet been inducted.

So I asked this girl. It's not that I chose a girl out of all the people that were around, there was nobody else around. The buses leave for the worksite at 6am, and keeping with gender sterotypes, the women do the housekeeping while the men do the mining.

A lovely young New Zealand lass said, 'Nice shirt bro.'
I was still in my Hawaiian shirt. My high vis until I had some proper high vis.
'Thanks! Do you know where the induction room is?' The time is 6.56am.
'Not sure. I think it's next to the gym. Where I'm going.'
Smart move, I thought. Bulking up to fight off the fellas.
'I did it months ago,' she said. 'It was like my twentieth one.'
I was suddenly worried it was really difficult, and she'd failed it nineteen times.
She continued, 'Every job, it's basically the same shit. How many have you done?'
Oh I get it. This is her twentieth different jobsite. That seems like a lot, she wasn't that old.
'I know what you mean,' I replied. Not wanting to give away that this is my first induction since I was an engineer, over a decade ago and I was a little bit excited about something she obviously finds mundane. I also didn't want to let on that I was a newbie. She wasn't that big but looked tough, and I didn't want to get beaten up by a girl on my first day.

We reached the gym, and I said, 'Thanks for your help, I'm Xavier by the way.'
People on the mining site are so friendly sometimes it borders on aggressive, and I'd quickly learnt that after a conversation, the done thing is to introduce yourself.
She had a traditional New Zealand name that I instantly forgot, and knew I couldn't pronounce anyway. It sounded really nice, I'm a bit bogan when it comes to tricky words. That is, I can't say 'em. I actually stress so much about saying them properly and possibly get them wrong that I think about it too much, so always get them wrong.

She went into the gym, and the induction room didn't seem to be anywhere nearby. It was 6.58am. I spotted a guy about 100m away. Easy to spot because he had a bit of a gut, and had it covered with a high vis shirt that looked more like a sail. He walked me to the induction room. His name was Gary. It was 7.01am.

And I was allowed to stay. I wasn't too late. Yes! Apparently I had to come back to have my photo taken, but that doesn't seem too necessary. At the moment they've got this awesome security system where every time you leave or enter the accommodation or jobsite, a security guard asks for your last name, and then writes it down on a piece of paper. Cop that terrorists! Airport security has nothing on this place. Considering that you can only get here via a charter flight that's booked by your employer, I don't imagine they get many blowins.

The induction was all about safety first (pun intended), then an environmental session, and then a break and I thought we're nearly done here. An early finish! Then it was safety again, for another three hours. It was quite dry, and felt a lot like a promotional session for the project management company running the job. However it has been over 100 days since an LTI (lost time incident), that's corporate talk for an accident that results in lost work time. I wonder if dying counts, even if the worker is replaced immediately?

At times the safety stuff did seem over the top, but with that long since any significant accident and thousands of workers onsite, well that's a fair effort. Especially considering what mining sites used to be like, and mining sites run by the same company overseas are probably still like. It's an unfortunate fact, but sometimes I think that companies care a lot about safety in first world countries, because it's cheaper than paying compensation and rehabilitation. Which sounds like a good thing, but consider the reverse. These companies also operate in countries where life is cheap, so the same standards don't apply. Companies are all about returning the maximum profits to shareholders. For them, the only reason to have a social conscious is to improve the bottom line.

So the induction finished with safety, and more safety, and then a long section on fatigue where I nearly fell asleep.

The different presenters were all engaging and well spoken, they'd obviously had some public speaking training, and likely honed this talk over many sessions. The whole thing felt like it'd been crafted by a marketing team to keep your attention, convey information, and tick a whole lot of legal boxes. It could've definitely done with more jokes, but as we were repeatedly told, 'Safety's no joke.'

In the six months since this mine has opened, there has only been one LTI. The guy who's paid to catch the snakes, actually called the snake handler, was bitten by one. According to the presenter who told us this, it was an unavoidable incident since, 'He'd had the training, he was the expert.'

Or maybe he's just shit at his job. I still don't know what my job is, but surely a large part of catching snakes is learning how to not be bitten by them.

During the induction, each instructor led us through the answers to the quiz questions for their section. So we all passed, and although I still didn't know what I was doing at the mining site, I was now legally allowed to do it.

My direct supervisor Jonno arrived to pick me up two hours after the induction finished. It was 3pm when I finally arrived at the site. It was very hot. At security I was stopped, and after the girl took down our names she nodded at me and asked, 'Where's that blokes high vis?'
I was shattered. The Hawaiian shirt wasn't sufficient?
'He's just going to pick it up,' said Jonno.

In the office the lady in charge of all the admin took me to a shelf, where we sorted through sizes. Each shirt also came with a name. Did I want to be Steven, Rick, Matthew, Matthew or David? Well only the larger Matthew's shirts were the right size, so until my shirts arrived, I was Matthew.

Jonno introduced me to a few of the guys.
Robbo said, 'Nice to meet you Matthew.'
'My name's not Matthew.'
'Is now,' he replied, and everyone within earshot pissed themselves.
Heckled on my first day, I haven't even started work yet, and nobody knows I'm a comedian. Woohoo.

After I did the safety induction specific to the contractor who'd employed me, and filled out a bunch more forms, it was home time. Maybe tomorrow I'll find out what I'm supposed to be doing. I don't even know how much I'm being paid either, but it feels rude to ask what I'm getting for the work, before I've actually done any.