Posted on: June 6, 2018
When twenty-nine students gathered on Thursday, May 10, in Room 219 of the Trades and Technology building, they weren’t quite of sure what to expect. A chance to chat with an experienced trades worker, yes. A chance to learn a bit about health and safety, likely. Thanks to Tammy Olsen, they managed to learn about both, and so much more.
Olsen is a force to be reckoned with in many fields of trades work. Hailing from Saskatchewan, she grew up with trades work in her blood, coming from a family of construction workers. At first, she a skewed the notion of trades work, joining cosmetology school after graduation. It didn’t take long for her to change paths back to trades, finding herself working in construction work all over the province before shifting to where the action was in Alberta.
Moving to Alberta, Olsen worked in pipeline construction, industrial plant maintenance, and shut downs. This path leder into industrial pipe insulating and cladding for many years, eventually earning her 4th-year apprenticeship in the field. Moving back to Saskatchewan several years later, Olsen took a commercial insulation position in Saskatoon where she was inducted into the Local 119 Heat/ Frost Insulating Union and was the first woman to be voted into the hall, paving the way for other women into the trade. Today the hall has 10 active female trades inducted.
Olsen was then asked by her employer at the time to prepare the company to obtain a Certificate of Recognition (COR). Olsen started taking for Health and Safety courses and learned what steps she needed to take to accomplish the goal put in front of her. She worked long hours. Although she loved working with her hands, she slowly found herself interested in the safety side of work. Back then, anyone In Occupational Health and Safety was only known as a ‘Safety Officer’ and was usually the person seen as a nuisance on sites, as they held up jobs in the name of a safe workspace.
After a couple of years she found herself less and less on the tools and dealing more with day to day safety, so she decided to make a make a career change. She took as many courses as she could manage and ended up with a provincial certification for Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Olsen then pursued additional designations throughout Canada (CHSC), and eventually started her own consulting company in Saskatchewan prior to her move to BC three years ago. Olsen wanted to know everything that would make her a better safety educator including becoming a trainer for Fall Arrest, Confined Space Entry, Lift Tickets and First Aid, which she still teaches today. Safety is all about educating.
Today, Olsen hails as the Occupational Health and Safety Advisor for Acres Enterprises, one of the largest construction companies in the Thompson Okanagan region. Her days are busy, and the projects are multiplying monthly, but she still takes time to chat with students who may be interested in learning more about occupational health and safety.
While students ate their lunches, Olsen spoke with ease, answering the many questions popping up from around the room. She spoke of the best tickets to take to boost your resume, the three rights of every employee should know about in the work place, and of course, how to apply for positions as Acres Enterprises.
As the lunch hour wound down, and students eagerly took Olsen’s business cards to keep the connection going, it showed that the students not only appreciated the words of advice and information about working in Occupational Health and Safety, but they may consider it for themselves. After all, as Olsen, herself stated, “It’s all about making certain everyone gets home safe at the end of the day and doing your part to make sure that happens. You never know what path a trade will take you.”