Monday, March 9, 2009

Freezing on the job

Aaahhh... bridge work. It's so unlike other construction, I guess that's why we have a separate bridge department in my company? We're the loony ones who work construction in winter.

In Alberta, the joke goes, we have four seasons just like everyone else. We have to remind ourselves of this, because people from other parts of the country don't believe it. Others have spring, summer, autumn, winter. Our seasons are before winter, winter, after winter, and road construction. Maybe it's a result of the fact that winter often starts in October, and stretches well into April, that we have this self-deprecation in humour? But I digress. The other major departments in the company use winter as a time to STAY INSIDE!!!! Not us! Hey, let's work off of the ice!

Presently I'm working to repair this bridge. Well, I'm not repairing it. I'm watching others do the grunt work to repair it. The benefits of education! Though, as I explained to one of the guys on the crane crew, I sometimes feel guilty about not offering to help when it's obvious that another pair of hands moving something heavy would be advantageous. Then I remember that if I got injured by pitching in, I'd be hard pressed to explain to Workers' Compensation how I got a manual labour type injury from being the inspector on the job.

My job today and yesterday was to stand around and count. That's it. Really. I'm not kidding. I was observing pile driving again, doing blow counts. The difference is that on this job, instead of trying to attain a certain bearing capacity and stop, I was making sure that we got the piles deep enough. Hard ground within 15' of the surface made this an effort - especially when my engineer wanted us to be about 25' down. So, instead of stopping at 15 blows per quarter meter, we were up in the realm of 80 to 140 blows per quarter meter. Overkill anyone?

Here's what the bridge pier looked like this afternoon. We're basically making the old pier piles redundant with a new steel exoskeleton type arrangement to take the weight of the bridge off of the broken timber piles.

Did I mention that I was standing around? Doing nothing physical? As part of the winter construction aspect of this project, Old Man Winter blew into town with a fury. All weekend we have had either a winter storm warning or a wind chill warning in effect from Environment Canada. Saturday we had blizzard conditions most of the day. Not terribly cold (-20C/-15C), but the wind was fierce, gusting to 50 kph! Saturday night the bottom fell out on the barrel. Started the day off with wind chill around -35C. The temperature didn't rise above -20C, and the wind was present all day long. According to the "what happened" today info online, we had windchill down to -39C today. I had frozen drops of condensation collected on my eyelashes, and my eye lids had frost on them.

Thankfully, that's the last of the tasks that requires me to stand around outside for long periods of time. The rest is all checking, measuring, recording, and retiring to the heated pickup truck! But, for fun, here's a photo of me yesterday. I can almost button up the vest in summer time... but here I have a lot of clothing on underneath it. I felt like the Pilsbury dough boy with insulated overalls and jacket, quilted jacket with hoodie, two sweatshirts, t-shirt, polypropylene long underwear, balaclava, touque, insulated work gloves I can still write with (not warm enough for today though!), and steel toed Baffin boots.

The nice thing about this kind of work? I'm on my own schedule away from some of the office 'stuff' that gets tiring at times. Staying in hotels alone and away from Mrs. Spit? Yeah, that's the down side of the work. But, as my Dad likes to point out, it pays the bills. I wonder where my pragmatic side comes from?

More to come on this and other projects.


Mrs. Spit said...

ah. The pile whacking implement. I love you, even so bundled up, I had to check to see it was you.

Donna said...

I had to comment... because growing up in northern WI - we always thought of the seasons in the same way! I'm sure it's slightly less extreme than your weather but it still seemed like most of the year was spent either getting ready for winter or cleaning up after it. I love seeing your bridge pictures. It's so interesting and completely different from anything I am around every day.

Meghan said...

Growing up in Edmonton it seems very few people understand the need for multiple layers. I love the fact that you have named them. I can remember going to school, walking in those layers and then turcking home in them again. What fun!! (In a way)