When Dale O’Dwyer thinks about work, safety is the first thing that comes to mind. That’s because he heads up Prince Rupert Gas Transmission (PRGT) Project’s safety department, which focuses on ensuring staff and contractors meet the project’s strict safety guidelines when working in the field. Nobody wants to get hurt on the job, and O’Dwyer does everything he can to keep it that way, even going so far as to issue emailed moose alerts for those driving the highways of northern B.C.
“I know it sounds a little cliché, but safety really is our number one priority,” notes O’Dwyer. “I’m proud of the safety record TransCanada has, and that’s largely a testament to the focus that we put on safety — throughout the company — every day.”
But with so much attention already focused on creating a safe working environment, is there more that can be done? “Absolutely, and that’s one of the reasons for working with the University of Northern B.C. (UNBC) to create a specialized training program that focuses on pipeline construction safety.”
O’Dwyer was instrumental in further developing an Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Officer training program in conjunction with UNBC. The program is modelled after the training given to traditional OHS officers who work in a variety of industries, but goes a step further and focuses on training them for work in the pipeline world.
“We want to hire locally from the towns and regional districts along our pipeline route, but the fact is there aren’t that many safety officers in these areas.”
— Dale O’Dwyer, safety manager, PRGT
“As we look ahead to the construction phase of our project over the next four years, we need good, qualified people who will keep our workers safe,” O’Dwyer says. “There is a general concern that with so many projects on the go — not only pipelines, but forestry, mining and the like — there will not be enough inspectors for all of the potential projects.”
At last count, there were about 2,500 OHS Inspectors in B.C. The government estimates there will be a need for 6,000 by 2020. We’ve heard the other statistics as well. Consider that B.C.’s natural gas industry today employs some 13,000 people.
If five LNG projects are built over the next nine years, Grant Thornton International estimates the need for 39,400 full-time equivalent (FTE) construction jobs each year. Over the nine years, some 102,500 FTE construction jobs and more than 250,000 spinoff jobs will be created. Some 75,000 FTEs will be required to operate the five projects each year after they are built. These are daunting numbers. And that’s just for one industry.
The demand for labour on LNG construction is expected to peak in 2017. The largest number of workers will be needed in the areas of general construction helpers, labourers, steamfitters, pipefitters and welders. With that many workers on job sites, the need for safety is paramount.
The students in the UNBC program will complete the 33-day program at the University’s Prince George campus. They will learn a myriad of skills both in the classroom and in the field.
TransCanada’s $82,500 donation pays for 25 students of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal backgrounds to study pipeline safety until the end of the year, when most will begin working on TransCanada projects, either directly with TransCanada or with contractors. The program is the second funding initiative under TransCanada’s Pathway to Pipeline Readiness program, which is part of the company’s education and training plan for northern B.C. The program focuses on skills that are relevant to pipeline construction, but are easily transferable to other industries.
The program covers the basics, such as occupational health and safety fundamentals, current legislation, workplace hazards and hazardous materials, fire safety, emergency response, safety inspections and accident investigations — all with a focus on pipelines.
“I don’t want safety cops who only ensure that workers are wearing appropriate hardhats and vests. I want graduates who understand the processes, procedures and legislation needed to create a culture of safety for our contractors. When the students leave the program, they will have the skills that will be needed to keep workers safe and ensure that nobody takes unnecessary risks or cuts corners that could put them in danger,” says O’Dwyer. “And yes, that also extends to ensuring our contractors watch for moose on remote highways.”