martes, 28 de febrero de 2012

Fear of snakes

Snakes were common in the warehouse lay-down area. The high grass and closeness to the jungle just beyond the warehouse perimeter fence provided them with a great habitat. The African workers respected the snakes, as did I. We ventured into the lay-down yard very carefully, step by step. Snakes were also common inside the warehouse, in the corners of the building, in the bins and racks, and in the office area. Escape from the heavy rains and relative cold temperature after the rain, especially at night, made the warehouse building a dry habitat for snakes. One morning, a fifteen-foot snake stretched out along the bottom wall of my office. We spent a half an hour getting him out and most of the morning talking about his size. There were lots of cobras, called spitting cobras because by standing up three to four feet in the air, looking their prey in the eye, and spitting venom from a distance of ten to twenty feet, the victim was paralyzed quickly. At least that was how cobras were explained to me by the local people.

Insects and other scavengers were common, but the most common was the household fly. It was the worst of the scavengers. With man came man’s garbage. Garbage provided a feast for many forms of jungle life, especially the flies. I saw a particularly impressive display of jungle life when I inspected an open-top container of soft drinks that had been off-loaded at the port and transported to the mine warehouse. This container had not been received promptly by the warehouse crew. It was left out in the hot sun and high humidity for more than a week. After about ten days exposed to the heat and the humidity, the aluminum soda cans began bursting and were being consumed by “jungle life.” The acidity of coca cola corroded more cans causing them to burst and leak. The sugar in the drinks attracted all types of jungle life. Maggots seemed to thrive on Coke!

It was hard to get the workers to change their black-tire sandals for safety boots. The heat and humidity made safety shoes very uncomfortable to wear even for a short period of time. The workers preferred sandals cut from old tires with leather straps added. The black-tire sandals were actually very comfortable. Everyone wore a hardhat at Sierra Rutile. It provided great protection against the hot sun and shaded the eyes from the sun’s glare. Safety hats were an easy “sell” to the workers.

There was very little management support—it seemed that I was on my own. Reporting to work every day seemed to be 80 percent of the job responsibility, and safety may have been the other 20 percent.
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