I don’t remember much about the first safety “officer” I saw on the rig. I saw him too. Never met the man. He was one of those “Corporate” types as mysterious as the mind of a woman: one of those we whispered about in the confines of the doghouse but dared not talk to lest we incur the wrath of Old Drill. This one, not in particular but typical at the time, or so I soon learned, made a tour of the rig, nodding and shaking his head, then promptly crawled into his car and sped away to his lofty office to pen a list of the “deficiencies” he observed. It would be days before we’d learn of his findings.
I always thought: What? If the items were so important that someone could get hurt if they were not corrected, why didn’t the man point them out then and there?
From then on—Safety Weenie, not officer.
Hate to say, but I never had an ounce of respect for a safety weenie. To me, they were the guys who couldn’t roughneck, work derricks, or drill, so instead of sending them packing, the company moved them into the safety department. They got a participation trophy. Couldn’t do the job, but somehow, suddenly, they knew how to do my job safer than I did. Drove me nuts.
Five years ago, I heard that the company I presently work for had employed Safety Weenies to work a rotation on the rig… With me. It was like someone telling me “Wednesday, you’re going to come down with a case of the flu.”
Well, Wednesday arrived, and the helicopter with my new safety weenie touched down on the deck. He stepped into my office, and I sized him up—bald as a newborn piglet, built like a brick outhouse, gray mustache so 55 or so. I looked at the name on his shirt and asked, “Co-op?” He said, “Coop.” I stuck out my hand and he clasped it with an iron grip and squeezed until my eyes bugged out and my left hand was glad it wasn’t involved.
That day Ricky Cooper, Coop, shattered my opinion about Safety Weenies, and he did it with more action than words. He’d been a subsea engineer and a crane operator and had moved to the safety side of the business to make a difference. He did. He worked with the crews, outside, on the deck, rain or shine, day or night. He taught practical skills and observations the men could use. He was the first one to lend a hand, give a pat on the back, or bow his head. The men saw that he cared, and they listened.
Rick is retired now. Forced to by the four-letter word CANCER. He’s fighting. He’s winning.
We miss him out here in our little, fast-paced world of rattling iron, pulsing mud pumps and swinging cranes. He made a difference in the lives of everyone he met and is not forgotten.
I miss him.
Rick didn’t make lists. He made sure there was nothing to note.