Picture it and Write: Safety First

by joetwo

Hi there! This is my offering for this week’s picture it and write for Ermilia’s blog here. Once again the picture is not mine, I only use it for inspiration. Anyway, Enjoy.

Safety First

Marcus’ Hi-Viz jacket chafed at the top of his neck. He wanted to take it off but knew that the dressing down he would get from Phil, his boss, would not be worth it. “Safety is the most important part of our job.” the middle aged farmer would say to whomever would listen, “You think that farming is a hum-drum activity but if you knew the number of people who have had a sticky end working the land you would have another think coming.”

Phil’s zeal for workplace safety was, in reality, not something to dismiss off hand. Still it grated somewhat. It meant you had to consider every step you made since Phil was ultimately watching you and was liable to call you out if he saw anything potentially dangerous. Add to that his ‘Four strikes and you’re out’ rule and Marcus found himself in a working environment almost as toxic as the conditions Phil was trying to ameliorate.

Marcus was out in the south feedlot, replacing old fencing when there was  a general summoning over the radio. “Everyone over to silo five. Quick as you can.” Phil sounded irate. Well; more irate than usual.

Marcus couldn’t just leave what he was doing so he was a good half an hour before reaching the small group of people gathered around the tall metal silo. Phil glowered at him but Marcus held his head high. Phil new what he was up to and couldn’t say a word about leaving it. This seemed to irk the manager even more.

“The reason I have called you all here.” Phil began emphasizing the ‘all’ when looking that Marcus, “Is to discuss the gross error that Julio has made when filling this silo.” Marcus and everyone else looked pityingly at the young immigrant worker who had earned their manager’s wrath this time “Julio could you come over please?”

Nervously, Julio stepped forward. Phil grabbed him by the shoulder and pointed at the silo. “We had a delivery this morning did we not Julio?”

The young man nodded “Sí Señor. Yes.”

“Enough to fill the silo by a third, was it not?” Phil had all the amiability of a hungry shark, Julio scuffed the dirt with his boot. “Sí”

“So that means that two thirds is empty does it not?”

“Sí! It does.”

“Wrong!” Phil almost shouted causing the young man to jump, “It is not empty. Because when you get grain being shifted you get???”

Julio looked confused, saying nothing. Phil’s face got darker and darker.

Marcus decided to give Julio a break “You get dust.”

Phil glowered at Marcus even more darkly than before but he continued talking “Yes! You get dust, you get grain dust, that floats in the silo for hours. And if you can answer directly.” Another sharp look at Marcus “What does that mean?”

Julio stuttered “I, I don’t know Señor.”

“Well since you don’t know the answers. Marcus?”

“It means an explosion hazard.” Marcus made his voice as neutral as he could. “If a spark gets in.”

“If a spark gets in.” Phil repeated “Very good. That is why we??” He gestured up the long winding stairs along the side of the Silo.”

Julio finally caught the import of what Phil was saying “We turn on the spark suppressor.”

Phil look into the sky, as if in to say ‘finally’ and the out loud “Yes we do. Which you failed to do this morning. And which you still haven’t done.”

Julio blurted out “I shall do it now Señor!”

“Yes you shall!” Phil snapped back “And you shall consider this the first strike on your record.”

Julio nodded and ran to the silo. The clanging of his boots on the metal stairs made it hard for the others to hear Phil shout out his latest lecture. “You may think that I am too strict or that these rules are for fun. But you are mistaken. This are all for your safety and for the safety of those around you. Julio’s mistake left this silo a powderkeg just waiting to go off. It was only a miracle that….”

Julio must have made it to the top by then and must have pressed the suppressor but something went wrong. The next thing anyone knew was a deafening roar followed by an avalanche of high velocity grains flowing at them. Most of the men were knocked out instantly but one or two would later claim that they saw the silo climb slowly into the sky, flame and grain pouring out of the bottom, and a very surprised Julio on top.  

They found the Silo a half-mile away, splattered across a third of a feedlot, as was Julio. The rest of the workers all got away with minor injuries, from a broken bone or two to rough grain abrasions. All except for Phil, who was just a little too close to the bottom of the silo.

Marcus over from Phil. They all say that he was a nicer, friendlier man to work for. But that he was still a stickler for safety, at least as cautious, if not worse than his predecessor. And he would often tell this story, to anyone new, or just anyone who would care to listen, so that they would know, like he did, why you should put safety first.