Deserved Reputations

Long-time commentator Tatyana asks me a question in the comments of this post:

You see now, how Russians came to have their reputation?

Answer: yes.

I always used to think very positively of Russia, and usually thought the best of Russians.  As it happens, I still do.  I still maintain that you’d be hard pressed to find a bunch of more hospitable, care-free, and genuine people than the Russians, and defy anybody to claim that an evening spent socially in the company of Russians does not rank in the top five of their Most Memorable Nights Ever.

But boy, can Russians be idiots.  As readers of this blog should by now know, this part of Sakhalin Island is dominated by the oil and gas industry.  With the oil and gas industry comes oil and gas facilities, and with oil and gas facilities comes health and safety standards which require a type of behaviour which is often incompatible with the prevailing culture and mentality of the locals.  In short, being three sheets to the wind on an oil and gas facility does not sit well with those who own and operate the facility, nor anyone else whose life depends on the hydrocarbons within not catching fire.

A Russian man was recently discovered completely drunk on an oil and gas facility, the random alcohol test having failed to pick him up.  Fortunately, he was not actually working and his condition did not lead to anyone else getting hurt.  Upon his discovery, he was removed from the facility, taken to a clinic with a calibrated testing machine to confirm his inebriation, taken to his accommodation camp where he collected his belongings, and was taken from there to a cheap hotel by the airport where he awaited the next flight back to his hometown on the mainland.  When his employment began, he was required to read, understand, and sign his acceptance of the company’s alcohol and drugs policy, which was in Russian.  He had undergone the facility induction, also in Russian, where it was explained that there is a zero-tolerance approach to alcohol consumption, the penalty being immediate dismissal.  He had agreed to the accommodation camp rules which stipulate that consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden in the camp and the night before an individual is due to work.  Still, this chap went out and drunk a bottle of vodka, got caught, and lost his livelihood because of it.

That evening, the rest of the workers in his crew, 20 or so Russian men, were assembled at the accommodation camp where the consequences of the individual’s drinking were pointed out to all by way of his absence and empty room.  They were for the umpteenth time reminded of the company policy, the camp rules, and the facility rules, and warned that the following morning there would be compulsory alcohol testing for everyone and whatever else they choose to do that night, for God’s sake, do not drink.

The next morning, the assembled group was asked if anyone had been drinking the night before, if so step forward now to avoid an awful lot of problems at the alcohol test.  Two hands were raised, and two people booted back into the camp to await disciplinary action.  Any more?  No? Good.  So off everyone goes down to the alcohol test, where no less than five more of the crew are discovered to be drunk.  All five were sent packing to wherever they came from.

In the aftermath of all this, somebody asked what could be done to prevent incidents like this occurring in future.  My suggestion is shooting complete idiots.  Anyone have any better ideas?


9 thoughts on “Deserved Reputations

  1. Women, older (clearly) purple-died hair, even better. Introduce women to police sobriety – its the reason they manned the gates (not the gates but the offices which managed the gates) to factories and that productivity at Sheremeytevo passport control increased 50% when female border guards were introduced in 1995-ish (I still avoid male border guards as a matter of timeliness and oflactory policy.

    Alternatively a shovel to the back of the head makes a satisfying clang, but runs the risk of not being noticed.

  2. Wow! It must be tough to manage a place where you lose 6 of a crew of 20 in 48 hours to alcohol. That is sad and seems to be the traditional definition of alcoholism — an inability to control drinking despite the negative consequences.

    Drawing and quartering your example rather than just shipping him home might have prevented two or three of the other five from drinking.

    Have you checked into those ankle bracelets that detect if anyone consumed alcohol since attaching the bracelet? That would be a physical reminder on the body at all times. Plus, even if they drank a little during off hours in the bunk, you would know it.

    It seems they are stationed for a period of time in a camp, so do you regularly do bunk searches for vodka?

    Anyway, good luck finding sober and competent replacements…

  3. It must be tough to manage a place where you lose 6 of a crew of 20 in 48 hours to alcohol.

    Since our company set up here 2 1/2 years ago, we have turned over almost a third of our 1,000 man workforce due to alcohol related incidents (not all of the workforce is Russian). We are one of several dozen contractors on the project. The numbers are beyond belief.

  4. I think it’s partly because Russians aren’t used to rules being enforced strictly like this. After all, you described yourself earlier their normal practice of just reading out legislation and assuming that was enough for it to be understood and “enforced”. Also if the workers really are alcoholics (with that disguising other problems) then they aren’t going to instantly reform just because some of the others get sent home.

  5. I don’t know if this will make you any more confident, but I could bore you with a catalogue of similar stories involving African workers – except I’d probably branded a racist. Suffice to say total, mindnumbing stupidity of this sort isn’t confined to Russia.

    As to solutions?

    Shooting idiots? If your problem is similar to mine you’ll run out of workers before you solved the problem. A case of too many idiots and not enough bullets.

    Ruminator’s flat of the shovel upside the head? Granted this does produce a satisfying BADOINNNNNGGGGG! noise that seems to calm one’s nerves (it’s probably a Zen thing). But realistically brings little or no long term improvement in behaviour.

    Personally? I have learnt to try my best and how, when everything inevitably turns pear shaped, to take covert. I’ve also developed the knack of shrugging my shoulders, picking up the pieces and mentally filing away the better examples for my memoires. My hope is these will become a run-away bestseller and support me in my dotage. My fear is no-one will ever believe them.

  6. ps re Russophile’s ankle bracelet idea. I can only offer the following:

    When someone develops an idiot proof device, some other bastard will find a better idiot.

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