Paul Yakymow

After 35 years, I know pipelines are safe.

A lot has changed these past few decades. It wasn’t that long ago we were reading maps to drive from one place to another. Today, getting directions is as easy as turning on a smartphone.

But as much as times change, some things always stay the same. I’ve been an operating engineer for 35 years. From my first day in the field to today, safety has always been the top priority.

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I joined the industry in 1979. Back then it was tough finding a good job. My brothers were operating engineers for most of their lives, and more than anyone else, they inspired me to join up. I never looked back. It’s a good living that offers decent pay for a day’s work.

Over a 35-year career, I’ve worked on dozens of pipelines. I’m not the only one – this industry is full of experienced men and women, folks who have been working on pipelines for as long as half a century. Our philosophy is simple – build right, build safe, and build to last. An old foreman of mine summarized it best: “Do it once, and do it properly. We never want to have to do it again.”

It’s a philosophy we apply across the country – including in our own backyards.

I live in St. Anne, Manitoba, with four pipelines on my property. Those pipelines are safe. I know: I worked on three of them. For operating engineers, pipeline safety isn’t just about respecting laws and regulations – it’s about protecting our own families. After all, we live in the same communities where we build.

You can see our commitment to safety in our record: 99.999% of crude oil moved by pipeline arrives safely at its destination. You can see it in our painstaking attention to detail. Every weld on every joint is tested – X-ray tested, pressure tested, tested again and again. Pipelines are constantly monitored. Pipelines are the safest means of moving energy products, by far.

These are the facts – and it’s time for operating engineers to tell those facts to our elected leaders. Thousands of jobs depend on pipelines, and new projects are being delayed without good reason. I know guys who were looking forward to at least five years of stable pipeline work. Then the oil slump hit, and big projects were cancelled. It’s hurting a lot of good people – it’s time for us to make our voices heard.

I’m asking my fellow operating engineers to click here and send a message to your MP. Tell them we’re ready to work. Tell them we’re ready to build and maintain safe pipelines. We’ve got to stand together – we need your help.

Paul Yakymow
Paul Yakymow has been an operating engineer for over 35 years, a member of Local 987 since 1979, and has made his living primarily in the pipeline industry.