I worked (wintered over) for Raytheon Polar Services at the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Palmer Station, Antarctica in 2002. I know first hand the unique working conditions and safety hazards faced daily by employees at these U.S. stations. There is no hardware store or supply house down the street to get your parts and material from. If the person ordering parts for your job isn’t clear about the scope of the work, you may find yourself improvising. I also believe the NSF lacks in the oversight capabilities necessary to ensure all work is done to applicable codes and in a safe manner. Raytheon basically inspects themselves. Nothing independent about that!! They’ve gone unchecked for years. I know I brought several safety concerns to the attention of the Station Manager (a Raytheon employee) and was told “I just didn’t know how things were done down here!” (I think I worked for that same guy in Iraq!) I haven’t been following the Antarctica work much so I want to thank our friends at Defense Base Act Compensation Blog for bringing this story to my attention. Rumor has it KBR is bidding on this contract.
~By Sophia Tewa~ An unusual man, David Pecheco decided at the age of 50 that he wanted to live the rest of his life in the treacherous South Pole, his wife Tina by his side. In October 2003, he took a job as a journeyman plumber and moved to the McMurdo Station in the southernmost tip of Antarctica, the hub of the United States’ scientific research efforts in the region.
The thrill didn’t last long. On the morning of January 28, 2007, David Pacheco was sent to an empty building to drain and put antifreeze on pipes without knowing that the electricity was still on. When the water slashed out of the pipes, it conducted two lines of 277 volts throughout his body.
He flew 20 feet in the air. For a minute his heartbeat stopped.
“Your brain works but your body doesn’t work and you start shaking like a fish and then you try to get up and you can’t,” he said. “It’s like winning a lottery that I am alive.”
When his supervisors finally arrived, it took them an hour and a half to turn off the electricity.
“I saw them running around with blueprints,” said his wife Tina Pacheco who worked at McMurdo as an administrative assistant. “They couldn’t even figure out where the switch was to turn off the electricity. And then later they blamed David for not turning it off. And that’s just, on so many levels, that’s ridiculous.” Read the remainder of this entry »