Cam Smith became a millwright on the Trans Mountain pipeline at Valemount in spring 2014.
As the newest member of his team, Cam uses his mechanic skills to help look after a pump station along the North Thompson section of the Trans Mountain pipeline right-of-way.
Cam describes why his new job is a dream come true.
Q. What drew you to work on the Trans Mountain pipeline?
A. I’m from Devon, Alberta, and had been working at an Edmonton factory that retreads commercial truck tires. I was eager for a new challenge and a change of scenery. My wife and I love to spend time outdoors and enjoy camping, backpacking and canoeing.
We had been wanting to move to the mountains for quite some time, but jobs were scarce since all the sawmills shut down. So when an opening came up for a millwright at Trans Mountain’s Valemount pump station, I saw that as a great opportunity and I jumped on it.
Q. What was your work background?
A. I got my start about 20 years ago at a printing plant where I ran presses before working my way up to mechanical maintenance foreman.
Q. What does your new job entail?
A. At the station, which is about the size of an average single-family home, one of my duties is looking after two 5,000-horsepower pumps that help move oil through the line at rate of about 2,000 cubic metres per hour. In one day, up to 300,000 barrels of oil move through the pipeline at a speed of five kilometres per hour.
The work varies every day. I don’t think I’ve done the same job twice. For example, today I started out doing station checks for all of the equipment at the station. After that we headed out to winterize some valves on the right-of-way. Each day is different.
Q. How important is safety in your day-to-day work?
A. Our focus on safety is a constant thing. We perform safety checks at least twice a week at the station.
We have a routine facility check procedure, which includes security checks, housekeeping checks, safety checks, environmental checks and equipment checks. There’s a whole variety of stuff we go through.
On the pipeline right-of-way, we do checks on the valves biannually – usually in spring and fall.
Q. What do you think of Trans Mountain’s approach to safety?
A. It’s amazing how safety-oriented this company is. At some of the places I’ve worked you kind of get the feeling it’s more talk than anything else.
Here, it’s not just talk. It’s the rule. Any time you are going to do a job, if you’re not sure about it or if you want a refresher, you’ll find that it’s covered in the safety manual. I have yet to find anything that isn’t covered in depth.
Obviously I want to be safe. I want to go home at the end of every day. I want my coworkers to go home at the end of every day. I now have a higher standard of safety for myself.
Q. What kind of safety training does your team do?
A. Safety training is a continual process for all employees and that’s not going to end.
Our current training modules and safety plans are renewed every three years and we have to renew our training on all of them. This will be ongoing throughout my career.