“A West Coast man has lost his feet and a hand to frostbite after surviving three days in an Arctic whiteout.”
Let’s look at the facts here. He had
- No EPIRB to locate him if all failed
- No Food
- No GPS
- Not enough fuel
- No tent
- No other survivial gear
Karamea’s Joseph Gibbons is a lucky man to survive three days near the highest point in Greenland during a storm. He lost some bits of his limbs in the process, but is eager to get back to work in the extreme cold.
Only luck prevented this from becoming a fatal accident. The real question is how the heck did he get into this situation, and more importantly, how the hell did his employer let him get into his situation?
“I went out for what I thought would be a 20 to 30-minute excursion, so I didn’t have any survival gear per se.”
One of the first lessons in extreme conditions is surely never to go out without the right gear. So why wasn’t the gear on the snowmobiles at all times? Why was Joe allowed off base without the minimum equipment? How can you be a contractor to do this sort of work if these basics are not part of the way you operate? Who are these shonky people? Who employed them?
Turns out his employer was an unnamed contractor working for the US Government, and the work was, amazingly, “researching how camps could be put together to better survive the harsh conditions.”
That mission just makes it even worse. What the hell were the US Government thinking? I sincerely hope that this contractor has been stood down until the reasons behind this debacle are cleared up.
Joseph may be able to claim some compensation from his contractor employer, and by extension, the US Government. He can probably do this regardless of whether he broke the rules or not.
However if he did break the rules for his excursion, then he should never be employed in a safety environment again – and certainly not by that employer (unless he reforms and teaches HSE.)
So whether this was something only he did (his fault) or was systemic (contractor’s fault) or wasn’t against the rules at all (Government fault) it should never happen again. All parties need to do some soul searching here – Joe for going out without the right kit, the contractor for providing a working environment that allowed him to do so and the US Government for employing contractors that allow this sort of thing to happen.
Shame on all of them, and you are a lucky man Joseph Gibbons.