Planning Your Trip
All crew members must know the plan. The crew will meet as a group to discuss specific route(s) to follow and what possible hazards may be encountered. The standard Safety Task Analysis (STA) will be discussed and filled out at this time. Now is when everyone should ask questions and determine exactly what they should do and where they should meet if anything goes wrong. Everyone needs to know where to meet if groups become separated – following tracks, meeting at a drill rig, etc.
It is important to follow the planned route so that you can be found if a breakdown or trouble develops.
Click for larger viewThe specific tasks to be accomplished that day should be discussed. There is a job to be done, and input from all crew members is needed at this point so that everyone’s understanding is assured.
The Party Chief or other designated crewman will call the office with the crew’s plan. This report will include the time that the crew expects to finish work and when to be back at the truck. Contingencies for not meeting proposed timing will be discussed and agreed upon. The office has to know when to start worrying and when to send out assistance. (Cell phone coverage increases every year up on the Slope and hopefully soon, cell phones will allow for full-time communication between the field crews and the office.)
When working from snowmachines, two machines are the minimum (the buddy system) and three are preferred. If we are working more than five miles from the survey van, a Tucker snowcat or other track vehicle will be used to support the operation. Having a warm snowcat to take breaks in, or go to in emergencies, is a vital part of safe operations in the harsh arctic environment.
Giving clear, easy-to-see hand signals are vital to safe snowmachine riding. Don’t be subtle with hand signals – make them plain and obvious. Be sure that the riders behind you can see any signal you make. Hand signals are a very reliable way to communicate while riding.
STOP: Left arm raised from the shoulder and extended straight up over the head with palm of hand flat.
SLOWING: Left arm extended out and down from the body with a downward flapping motion for hand to signal warning or caution.
All North Slope employees with Lounsbury and Associates will attend First Aid training as classes are available. However, it may be that not all members of a crew will have up-to-date First Aid and CPR cards. All crews will have at least one member who is current with his or her First Aid training.
Click for larger viewFor basic First Aid, always be aware of the dangers of frostbite and take precautions to prevent it. Proper clothing will help reduce the risk of frostbite and can be found in the Riding/Apparel section.
Frostbite is the Number One danger while riding with a snowmachine in the Arctic. Prompt treatment for frostbite is imperative and requires that the injured employee get to a warm location as soon as possible.
A First Aid kit should always be with you on your trip. The kit should be included in your emergency kit found in the Before You Ride/Emergency Kit section.
Besides the obvious danger of breaking through the ice, snowmachines have far less traction for starting, turning, and stopping on ice, than they do on snow. Always use extreme caution when riding on ice, traveling at slow, constant speeds. The machine is hard to control on ice, so fast stops are impossible and spins are far too common. To stop, let up on the throttle slowly allowing the machine to coast to a stop. The seated riding position is probably the best one for traveling on ice, but as always, each rider will want to decide for themselves what feels best and gives them the most control.
Historically, collisions on lakes account for a significant percentage of accidents because riders too often believe that lakes are flat, wide open areas, free of obstructions, and that maximum speed is the way to go. Remember, if you can ride and turn in any direction while operating on a lake, so can other riders. Therefore, the threat of a collision can come from any direction.
Click for larger viewIf you choose to snowmachine on the ice, be absolutely certain that the ice is safely frozen. There are miscellaneous references as to a safe ice thickness for running snowmachines, but for our work and the safety of our people, we won’t run snowmachines on ice less than 6” thick. Remember that you are responsible for your own safety – if you are uncertain of ice thickness, drill it and be sure. All ice should be drilled before you cross it at the beginning of the winter riding season, or if you are unsure of the thickness.
If you go through the ice, stay calm, (easier said than done but it sounds good!). Remember that your snowmachine suit (even a non-buoyant one) and helmet may keep you afloat for several minutes. Extend your arms out forward in front of you on the unbroken ice surface to catch yourself. Kick your feet to propel you onto the ice, like a seal. If the ice keeps breaking, continue moving towards the shore. Use anything sharp, like ice picks, keys or a knife to dig into the ice to help pull you forward. Don’t remove your gloves or mitts. Once you are on the ice, crawl or roll away from the hole. Don’t stand up until you are well away from the hole and then head for warmth and shelter immediately.
When working to rescue someone who has broken through the ice, don’t become another victim! Call for help, use throw bags or ropes, anything to get to the person in the water without getting close to the open water yourself. If a ladder is around, lay it down to help your weight be distributed over a greater surface area.
Riding and working over the Arctic Sea ice presents additional problems to consider. Pressure ridges, open leads, changing weather and even polar bears must be considered.
Pressure ridges form from ice flowing together and pushing up. In low visibility pressure ridges pose a dangerous obstacle. Ride at appropriate speeds for the conditions and light level.
Open leads often exist at stream or river inlets. Open leads can also form due to shifting ice pack. Maintain generous separation, 100 feet minimum, from open leads and be watchful of new leads opening.
Changing weather is always a concern on the Slope. Always check the marine weather before venturing out on the sea ice. Storm surges will push the ice in, forming new pressure ridges, leads and breaking up the ice.
Polar bear watch is an important duty of all crew members when on the sea ice. All crew members need to be informed if a polar bear is spotted. The bear is to be given a wide berth and not pressured to alter it’s path. If necessary, the crew should leave the area, head to safety and report to the office.