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Driving Miss Safety

Student Profile 6

Rikki snuggles up to her favourite BCIT instructor. Photos courtesy Angie Theillman

Rikki Lamb


Fort St. John, B.C.

Occupational health and safety diploma program



Unfazed by the background noise, I find Rikki Lamb sitting, quietly doing what BCIT students do best: studying. This second-year occupational health and safety student takes the time to talk with me despite looming midterms. Calm and open about her thoughts, it makes perfect sense to me that this girl hails from small town Fort St. John, in the heart of Northern BC’s Peace River Valley.

At 25, Lamb lives up to many things that I’d expect from a small town girl. She drives a truck, she’d two-step with you in a heartbeat — that’s a dance, city folk — and, oh, she’s just a little intimidated by the big city crowds. As we chat, I realize that living up to any kind of stereotype takes a backseat in this girl’s life.

How many girls have worked in the oil sands; and of those, how many start by driving a “rock truck” — basically a gigantic dump truck.

amb did, and at barely over five feet tall, Lamb couldn’t meet the top of the wheel well even if she was standing on a friend’s shoulders. Did I mention this was in the winter in northern BC?

During another stint on the oil patch, she worked as a “hot shot driver”, delivering machine parts to crews on a 24 hour-a-day basis. Just another ordinary day in the driver’s seat for Lamb.

“Fort St. John is an oil town, and so is any of the surrounding area like Fort Nelson, Grand Prairie,” she told me.

Despite being a very male-dominated industry, Lamb has been around the oil patch her whole life and the idea of working there is something she’s used to.

That’s not all she’s done since high school. She earned a bachelor’s degree in equine sciences — the training, rearing, and caring for horses. But with little money to be had in the industry, it was back to the oil patch; this time, she went with a first aid certification qualifying her to work as a medic.

With a makeshift camper vehicle as her treatment station, she says that she never had to treat anything too serious. In fact, the challenge was more what to do with all her free time.

“Basically, you sit in your truck all day. So I started looking at online courses because, I was like, if I’m going to be here for twelve to fourteen hours a day, I might as well do something.”

So from up north, Lamb emailed BCIT to find out more about the occupational health and safety programs, and realized she should commit to the full-time diploma in Burnaby. And so she applied. Six weeks later, she was accepted. That was last August.

Near completion of her diploma, she’ll be the person at your workplace who trains you to properly use your safety equipment, investigates the cause of your injury or who makes best practice recommendations to your company.

In the meantime, Lamb has adapted. She knows the best country bars in town, and has found respite from the city in her quiet New Westminster neighbourhood. And, her truck? Oh, it’s parked, because in her words, the U-Pass is “like gold.” And whether it’s oil, a bus pass, or her education, this gal knows how to capitalize on a valuable resource when she sees one.[hr]

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