MARYSTOWN, NL – For Morgan Augot, achieving basic survival training certification was more than just a step towards potential employment in the offshore oil sector – it was his way of sending a message of equality.
“It was the goal of actually completing the training and really to say that yes, deaf (people) can do it,” Morgan told the Southern Gazette Wednesday, March 7 with the assistance of his wife Leeanne, who communicates with her husband through sign language.
“I wanted it to be fair between hearing and deaf people, I didn’t want ‘this one can do more than the other.’ It’s fair.”
Completing this goal proved he could do it and shows others that people with disabilities “can overcome obstacles and do what they want to do in life,” he said.
Morgan, originally from Harbour Breton, has worked at Kiewit’s Cow Head Fabrication Facility in Marystown, as well at the Bull Arm fabrication site as a painter and sandblaster.
With the downturn in the economy and lack of businesses looking to hire, he turned his search for employment to the offshore, sending off a number of resumes.
“Of course after he sent it, they sent it back and said you must have this basic survival training course to go offshore,” explained Leeanne.
Before he could look into completing the course, Morgan was informed he had to complete a medical, but was originally turned down because he’s deaf.
“They were saying the regulations stated he must be hearing, must be able to hear all the alarms and all the helicopters,” explained Leeanne.
Not being one to take no for an answer, Morgan fought the decision and reached out to the company, which advised him how to proceed.
“He needed to contact people offshore and get their opinion on if they would work with him.”
Those he contacted explained that employees work in groups and are never alone; “they all said they would not have a problem with him working offshore, that he would be OK,” explained Leeanne.
One employee said working on the rigs is usually so loud, “you’re wearing your (ear protection) and you can’t hear anything anyway.”
Morgan re-took his medical on Jan. 19 and passed it.
“The only thing that (it) says on it is restriction for hearing,” he explained.
His wife added that restriction was also listed on his medical records when he worked at Kiewit and Bull Arm.
Morgan said he fought for so long to redo the medical, when he finally passed he was very excited.
He explained there were some challenges to overcome when taking the survival training course. The first was the cost of the program.
“We contacted the Department of Advanced Education and Skills (AES) where he was still on employment insurance,” explained Leeanne.
“Of course it is more of a challenge for him – if a hearing person were to go and do the course, they’d just pay for it, but when he (did) the course it involved interpreters, so really the cost of the course tripled.”
Morgan completed the course on March 2, having spent one week going through various safety preparation training and the rest preparing for potential situations in the offshore.
“It was rough,” he said. “It was a lot of training, big challenges, a lot of it was under water.”
For each day of the course, trainees were given a different challenge.
“One day it was all done in a helicopter simulator in a pool,” explained Leeanne, “It is crazy.”
During the simulation, the helicopter would be lowered upside down into a wave tank, with all the lights in the building shut off. Trainees would have to free themselves from the aircraft.
Morgan said the first time he took part he was very nervous, but “the second and the third I was okay,” he explained.
“First, we only went down halfway in the water – the second, third and fourth time you go all the way under.”
On the last day of training the group was taken by boat to an area off the coast of Bell Island.
“(We) had to swim to the raft, get in the raft (and get) out of the raft.”
Morgan said he has a special connection to the offshore. His uncle, George Augot, died in the Ocean Ranger disaster in 1982.
He wants to follow in his uncle’s footsteps,” Leeanne explained as her husband signed to her.