Walking on the Tongue of a Dragon

Article by Guest Author: Jack Imber
Author of the book DEMINER available from Amazon

Imagine yourself working on a very dangerous UXO site overseas. There are no safety protocols and no medical evacuation plans in case of an emergency. You find out that you are working under a tourist visa instead of a work visa which happens to be illegal. As work begins the site safety officer quits. You receive no safety briefs concerning the landmines, booby traps, large projectiles and other ordnance items you might encounter in the field. The detector you are given is the cheapest available and to make matters worse some of your team members are sweeping the grids with the machine turned off.

Dug out bunkers are indicating that the area was once a heavily defended battle position. The brush is thick and metal blade brush cutters are brought out to clear the valley. You speak with your team leader about this and many other issues you have regarding this job, one of which is the lack of a trauma kit for each team. He ignores you and brushes off your concerns.

The next day you remember where you last worked with the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) representative. It was at another UXO site in the US with the same company.

You approach the Project Manager and Site Supervisor (SUXO) and bring up the lack of sufficient safety plans but get nowhere. Since you went through the proper channels with no changes to the problems you email OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration). The response you received was not from OSHA but from an office employee whose name you recognize as working for the same company. Your email never went through.

One morning you are summoned to the Project Managers apartment. He hands you an itinerary along with a plane ticket. He is sending you home. He feels you are not a good fit for their company.

Has any of this ever happened to you? What did you do or what would you feel you needed to do to protect, not just yourself but the other team members doing the clearance work? Would you speak up knowing that this may be futile and you might lose this job and any future work with this company?

All of the details contained here are true. The UXO project was deep into the DMZ in Korea in 2008. Even though a small sacrifice had been made, positive results happened. Before leaving for the airport, it was confirmed that complete trauma kits were handed out to all the teams. A medical evacuation plan had been developed and implemented. It is unknown what else came about from these actions but it is important to realize that each and every one of us is responsible for the activities of the whole.

"It only takes one person to stir a cooking pot."

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