Q&A with 2020 Tim Downing OHS Scholarship Winner, Dave Stone of Bonanza Drilling

Congratulations to the 2020 OHS Scholarship recipient, Dave Stone, Bonanza Drilling.

Interview by Caroline Fyvie

Each year, the CAODC Board of Directors is pleased to offer the Tim Downing Memorial Scholarship Program offered by the University of Fredericton. The scholarship is for the online Certificate in Health, Safety and Environmental Processes program, in honour of the contribution the late Tim Downing made to the profession.

Tim Downing provided senior level safety management services to his employer and industry. He did so while battling cancer, yet still maintaining a positive perspective, continuing his work, and promoting professional development within his circles. Sadly, he succumbed to his illness in 2016.

With Tim’s legacy in mind, eligible applicants compete annually for one $7,260.00 bursary towards tuition and fees for the online Certificate in Health, Safety and Environmental Processes (CHSEP). This year’s winner is Dave Stone, Safety Manager at Bonanza Drilling. Dave has applied for the scholarship for a number of years, and was thrilled to be awarded this year. We caught up with Dave to learn more about his career journey.

CF: When did you start your career in oil and gas?

DS: I started my career in 2001 working on a swab rig for a small company in Medicine Hat, Alta.

A good friend of mine’s mom owned the company and she was having trouble finding workers. I had asked her and she didn’t really want to hire her kid’s friends all that much but she finally took a chance on me and it was a good fit. I was only there for three months and then I became a rig operator.

Dave with his children.
CF: What different roles have you held throughout your career?

DS: I ran a swab rig with a company called HK Well Service until they were bought out by what became Essential Energy Services. I was a lead hand running a rig and looked after field safety. I chaired our monthly safety meetings and did different tasks like that. When HK Well Service was bought out in 2006, Essential Energy Services was looking for a full-time safety person. Because I had led that role informally, my manager from the swab division recommended me and I moved into the safety role in 2007. I worked at Essential Energy Services until February 2016 and in November 2017 I started at Bonanza in my current role as safety manager.

CF: What aspects of health and safety stand out to you and inspired you to get involved?

DS: It was an opportunity given to me and over the course of so many years you see challenges between Operations and Safety, because they’ve traditionally been two separate entities. The one thing that I strive for is making safety easy for the guys in the field. Bridging that gap so Operations and Safety is one is something that I’ve looked for from my Operations team. It starts at the top, if they’re doing all the right things, and we engineer it as much as we can and make it simple and easy, it always drives success.

At Bonanza, the Operations team is tremendously supportive. Bonanza is a smaller team and when I showed up, I was able to use some of my previous experience that I had seen work well and apply it to the organization with an easier reach. I knew every rig manager and their families within being here a year. It’s been an easy bridge and all the field supervisors, VP of Operations, and president, they’re fully on board with any recommendations I have and that’s provided good progression within our safety programs since I’ve been here.

CF: What do you hope to gain from the Health, Safety and Environmental Processes (CHSEP) Certificate?

DS: The biggest thing for me is broadening my horizons. I’ve done investigation courses over the years and workplace inspection training, and have my 12 years of field-based experience. I’ve read lots, done webinars and different things like that, but for me it’s encompassing more knowledge. I think the knowledge will allow me to look at things differently. I got to the field at twenty-years-old so the majority of my experience is all field-based. This will complete my competency from years of experience to the educational background.

CF: When do you start the program?

DS: I can start right away and already registered. My first course is scheduled to be completed in August 2020. It’s nice that I can start immediately. Right now, with low activity, it’s a great opportunity for me to take advantage of this. There are 12 courses in total to complete within 14 months.

CF: How will the scholarship help you with your career objectives?

DS: I am an internal auditor, but I always thought in the future I would love to do external audits. I really enjoy identifying gaps within programs and that’s where I think some of the training through this certificate will help me look at things with a broader perspective and provide better recommendations as I move forward.

CF: How did it feel to win this scholarship?

DS: Honestly, I was beyond words. I’m super grateful, it’s something that I’ve wanted to pursue for a long time. It’s been something on my to-do list but it never seemed like it would line up. Right now, I’m working a reduced work week so it allows me lots of flexibility to work on this course each week, a couple hours each day without interfering with a normal work schedule so the timing couldn’t be any better.

I am extremely grateful that CAODC continues to work with University of Fredericton in offering this. I think it’s great for young safety professionals and it’s a great thing for anybody within CAODC that wants to take a walk down that path. For somebody new this would be incredible education to get. Even for myself who’s had school of hard knocks training, this is as important for anybody new to the industry.