Trans Mountain is committed to creating a safe work environment for all our staff and contractors who work on our existing pipeline, reactivation sections and on the Expansion Project. We recently connected with Michael Coulter, Lead Health and Safety Inspector, who has practiced health and safety in multiple provinces and territories. Michael shared some of his diverse work experience and personal motivations to work safely.

What's your role with the Trans Mountain Expansion Project?

My current position is as a Health and Safety Lead Inspector for both Reactivation segments.

Have you always worked in the health and safety field? 

My professional experience is diverse. Having started in the oil and gas construction industry at the age of 17 working my way up through the ranks of pipeline construction. My time working in the oil and gas construction and safety disciplines has taken me throughout Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the North West Territories. 

After spending the first part of my career in the oil and gas industry, I began my recruit training with the Calgary Police Service in 2001 and spent eight and a half years as a sworn constable. I had two different engagements with the Calgary Police Service my first five years running 2001 - 2006 and the second from 2009 - 2013. It was between these two engagements, in 2006, that I transitioned to the occupational health and safety side of the oil and gas construction industry.

Ultimately, I returned to occupational health and safety in 2013 as our family returned to Cold Lake. Over the course of my career I’ve worked as a team member, supervisor, new recruit officer coach, mentor, investigator and liaison recruiter to list some of the roles I have held. 

What drew you to work for Trans Mountain?

A previous work relationship led to a phone call in June of 2019 asking if I had any interest in working in Jasper and Mount Robson on a unique and challenging project. Fortunately, the individual offering me the opportunity knew that working in the mountains and outdoors was a soft spot. I'm an avid outdoor recreation enthusiast and have a passion for ultra trail marathons, mountain biking, downhill and cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. After a few weeks of chatting with my wife, I decided this would be one of these work lifetime opportunities that one would regret more by not doing than doing. Not to mention, this project is really our generation’s railroad. 

What motivates you in your work on the Project?

My personal motivation would be my passion for people and their individual story. I believe we have to see each person, on any project, not for what role or position they hold but for who they are and establish relationships to understand what their ‘why’ is. As a safety professional, we are in a position of influence not authority.

I’ve also had firsthand experience in a worksite fatality. I was tasked, along with a co-worker, to climb up to a work platform in a pipe rack highline to remove a worker who was fatally injured and needed to be lowered to the ground. That experience reinforced what I knew long before this – that no one should ever have to be involved with such an experience to really understand why workplace safety is critical. 

How do past experiences like that impact you in your current role?

I'm certain the practice of carrying forward and using past experiences in our present moment is something we all strive to do. For myself, as a safety professional, it’s about the people. It's about building the relationships and understanding their 'why' – encouraging, coaching, and mentoring each person to embrace the understanding of why working safely is not just a legal requirement but the right thing to do. Every day our crews go home safely is a win.