Seven Lakes Oilfield Services (SLOS) is a Cold Lake First Nations-based oil field services company collectively owned by the Saddle Lake, Goodfish Lake, Kehewin, Frog Lake, Beaver Lake, Heart Lake and the Cold Lake First Nations, the latter of whom maintains a 50 percent ownership in the venture.
Created in 2002 as a subsidiary of the Cold Lake First Nation owned and operated by Primco Dene Ltd. and Pimee Well Services Ltd., Seven Lakes has continued to maintain steady growth as it provides a variety of different and specialized services to oil and gas industry leaders in northeastern Alberta. SLOS clients include Imperial Oil Resources, Cenovus Energy, Canadian Natural Resources Limited, Devon Energy and others. As a provider of services that include scaffolding, general labour, waste management, wellhead and spill clean-up, safety watch, road maintenance, pipeline surveillance, site security and more, SLOS is recognized as a major service provider to the ever-expanding oil and gas sector.
During the past three years the company has increased its labour force three-fold, expanding from about 70 full time workers in 2010 to more than 210 in 2014. Seven Lakes employs carpenters, welders, plumbers, heavy equipment operators, scaffolders, drivers, general labourers and others, each of whom is involved in one or more of the company’s various divisions.
Safety is the number one priority at Seven Lakes Oilfield Services and the company is currently celebrating a five year recordable injury free safety record at the Cold Lake Imperial Oil site, a feat difficult to achieve in an environment conducive to bumps and bruises.
“From the very first interview, to the first day on the job and throughout the course of a person’s employment at Seven Lakes,” explained Operations Manager Mark Larocque, “employees are taught that awareness is the key to a successful work environment. We’ve taken a page out of Imperial Oil’s safety protocol and adapted it to fit our particular needs, and that is to have a work force that is keen, aware, astute and encouraged to talk to management about any issue or concern an employee may have. Over the years we’ve changed the culture around the concept of “safety.” Safety involves everything from protective clothing to the way we handle tools on the job site; it involves the way we work together as a team, the way we check and/or secure the job site, fill the fuel tanks, operate our equipment and much more.”
In fact, every employee, whether it’s their first time working in the oil patch or whether they come with 10 years experience, goes through a training period that includes one-on-one mentorship.
“New employees work with a mentor who will ensure that they become familiar with the job, get to know their fellow workers, understand company protocol and get an overall picture of who’s who and what we do. We believe in teamwork and strong leadership and we encourage our employees to help themselves and the company succeed by upgrading their skills, by applying for positions that become available so that they can move up the ladder.”
About 83 percent of SLOS employees are Indigenous workers, many of whom come from one of the more than 50 First Nations and Métis communities across the northeastern sector of the province.
“We’ve experienced significant growth during the past few years and as a result we are continuing to bring in new people,” explained Larocque, who noted that SLOS “is very fortunate” to have so many Aboriginal workers on the payroll.
“We’ve signed several new contracts over the last year or more and as a result we’ve created a variety of new positions within the company, and added dozens of workers to help us meet our growing obligations.”
Jessi Benson is one of those workers. She moved to Cold Lake as a 17 year old back in 2007. In the three years that followed she shared her time in both Lac La Biche and with her family on the Elizabeth Métis Settlement. She’d heard some good things about working in the oil patch, decent money being one of them. That same grapevine was also spreading the word that Seven Lakes Oilfield Services was a good place to work if you wanted to be treated fairly and given an opportunity to get ahead.
“I wasn’t sure the oil patch was something that I wanted to get involved in,” chuckled the 24 year old, who works in the company’s Safety Watch division as both a leader and a mentor. “I was like most young girls and things like cold weather, nasty bugs, coveralls and hard-toed boots were a bit foreboding, but the reality of it is, this is a great job and I am very proud to be working for a company that puts safety first and encourages input from everyone who works here.”
A female working and competing in a male-dominated industry must have had its drawbacks.
“Not at all,” she emphasized. “In fact, it’s been just the opposite from what one might think. I’ve been treated with respect since my first day on the job; the workplace culture has created a sense of unity, a sense of caring for one another. The company goes the extra mile to ensure everyone is on the same page, working for the same goals. It might sound like a bit of a cliche, but Seven Lakes is really one of those places whose employees don’t wake up in the morning saying ‘oh – gotta work today’ – instead they say, I can’t wait to get to work today!”
Benson began working as a general labourer for Seven Lakes in 2010 and over the years she’s been fortunate enough to move up the ladder, one step at a time.
“I started as a labourer and then moved into scaffolding,” she explained. “Over time I applied for new positions and challenges and was fortunate enough to get some opportunities. Today I am working with the Safety Watch division; we have an office and a field division and I am in the field, doing a job I really enjoy.”
“Over the years, Jessi has proven to be a valued employee,” noted Larocque. “She’s been a crew leader, a mentor and a leadership role model and she brings both a positive attitude and a sincere commitment to the job every day. Jessi is one of several employees that have risen though the ranks in recent years; our employees know that with good work ethic and a willingness to learn and grow, they can succeed in meeting their goals. As an equal opportunity employer, we hire and promote from within whenever possible.”
Versatility, dependability, integrity and hard work are things every company needs in order to succeed.
“We have to be committed in everything we do,” assured Larocque. “Any success we’ve managed to achieve over the years is a direct result of good employee relations. We believe in such things as integrity with our clients, good communication skills with our workforce and by developing and maintaining a strong management and leadership team that not only trains our workers, but also helps to develop workplace strategies that enable every employee the opportunity to grow within the company.”
In fact, the company’s mandate includes the development of meaningful employment opportunities within a vision to continue to expand its operations in all areas with all of the Industry Groups and Energy Group of Companies. Seven Lakes embraces meaningful and viable partnerships and joint ventures and remains determined to be a leader in all aspects of its business, including international projects involving local and Indigenous communities.
Seven Lakes Oilfield Services is dedicated to its customers by working hard to maintain their perception of fairness and earn their loyalty. This is achieved by providing a high level of service with a strong commitment to safety.
“We challenge all of our employees to achieve zero injuries, resulting in zero lost time,” assured Larocque. “At Seven Lakes Oilfield Services, ‘Safety is Our Tradition.’ This mandate represents a decision to change our behaviour and the way things are done to ensure safety is always at the forefront for every employee. We want all of our employees to make safety on-the-job and off-the-job an everyday priority.”
The company achieves that goal by emphasizing five basic safety principles: participation, accountability, consistency, communications and training.
Seven Lakes Oilfield Services has four main service divisions: Waste management, Scaffolding, General Labour and the newest entity, Safety Watch.
“Our wide range of waste management services includes such areas as collecting and recycling residential, commercial and industrial waste collection,” noted Larocque. “We have a wide variety of bin sizes and applications to suit every need. With experience, knowledge and resources backing us we are confident we can fulfill the waste management needs for any and all companies and corporations in our region.”
SLOS’s full service scaffolding division provides labour to erect, dismantle, ship and receive scaffolding. The company provides scaffold material rental equipment and includes pick up and delivery. As a proud member of the Scaffold Industry Association (SIA) SLOS is able to stay up-to-date on any changes to code and legislation. Personnel are certified through the SIA training program.
General labourers are utilized in almost every sector of the company’s business, including wellhead/oil spill cleanups, a recycling program available throughout the district, monthly pipeline and power pole inspections, seasonal work such as snow removal, sanding, shoe greasing and vegetation control, gas testing services for H2S, CO2 and other gasses and a variety of other general labour services
Seven Lakes has also expanded into the safety watch industry.
“Our excellent safety record and wide range of experience in the oil and gas industry has enabled us to excel in this particular area,” noted Larocque. “We are continually training the right people for the right job and investing the time and resources necessary to develop this division and achieve the level of success that our other divisions have attained. We are confident that this new addition to the company will thrive and prosper as time goes by.”
That success will be achieved, thanks to a fully trained and mentally prepared group of employees who go the extra mile to ensure that safety remains the primary directive at Seven lakes Oilfield Services.
by John Copley