Safety and Health

Toward a safe workplace, we engage all employees in the awareness, understanding and adoption of safety rules, procedures and standards, and enable them to identify and remove hazards and risks that could cause injuries.

Our Performance

Safety and Health Graphic 2

Total recordable injury rate below five-year average,

but higher than previous year.

Syncrude receives John T. Ryan Regional Safety Award

second year in a row.

Safety and Health Graphic 3
Safety and Health Graphic 1

Emergency response crews

assist in battling regional wildfire.

Our Approach

Syncrude’s goals are “Nobody Gets Hurt” and “Everyone Stays Healthy”. Toward these outcomes, our Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS) engages all employees in the awareness, understanding and adoption of safety rules, procedures and standards, and enables them to identify and remove workplace hazards and risks that could cause injuries.

An integral component of our management approach is a network of safety committees that identify, discuss and resolve safety and health related issues, and which share information and safety learnings with our business teams. These groups represent every area of the company and ensure employees have a voice and the means to get issues resolved.

As a member of the Mining Association of Canada (MAC), Syncrude participates in the Towards Sustainable Mining (TSM) program and reports annually on our safety and health management system. An independent external review occurs every three years. For 2016, Syncrude was verified at Level AAA across four indicators encompassing policy, implementation, training and reporting, and AA for performance. An external review also confirmed Syncrude met all requirements under the TSM crisis management and communications planning system protocol.

OIMS effectiveness is assessed continuously through various feedback mechanisms. Formal internal assessments occur annually, with external assessments by representatives from a Syncrude Joint Venture Participant every three years.

Safety & Health Performance

Syncrude’s combined total recordable injury rate for employees and contractors was 0.56 in 2016. While this is lower than our five-year average, it was 14 per cent higher than the previous year. Our combined lost-time injury rate also trended higher at 0.09 for the year. This performance was disconcerting, especially since we were able to evacuate, shut down and restart the plant during the wildfire event with no recordable injuries to Syncrude employees.

While there can often be multiple factors leading up to someone getting hurt, mental stress from the wildfire event could have been a contributor to the higher injury rates during the year. Improving safety awareness amongst our workforce continues to be critical, with continued focus on risk assessments, leadership visibility and the importance of intervention, as well as ensuring the availability of counselling assistance for employees and their families.

Total Recordable Injuries

Loss Prevention System

Toward improving personnel and process safety, we have adopted the internationally-recognized Loss Prevention System (LPS) which uses behaviour-based tools and management techniques to prevent and reduce losses. The tools help identify and eliminate factors and behaviours that lead to losses, and help determine what caused or contributed to an incident. While safety improvement is its primary intended benefit, the system also focuses on preventing operational inefficiencies, reliability and quality issues.

A number of early successes in its implementation are encouraging; program leaders have noted worker input and engagement, and departments have become more proactive in making changes before incidents arise. Worker training and coaching about the system will continue into 2018.

Focus on Process Safety

Integral to preventing process safety incidents has been our High Priority Piping (HPP) Program. After two years, the program completed close to 11,000 piping inspections to identify high priority and at-risk piping based on factors such as the commodity it contains, likelihood of corrosion, pressure, and temperature. The program has resulted in a safer work environment and saved more than $100-million in potential costs.

Alberta Safety Benchmarking

Source: Syncrude, Alberta Occupational Health and Safety

Audits and Recognition

Our assessment process is an important tool to review health and safety performance, and it also helps us achieve provincial certifications that are critical to ongoing operations.

A Certificate of Recognition, or COR, is issued by Alberta Occupational Health & Safety to employers who have implemented a workplace health and safety management system that meets provincial standards. COR is valid for a three-year period, with maintenance audits required for the years in between. Syncrude maintained its COR after an independent audit in 2015, with the next scheduled for 2018.

Syncrude participates in the Partners in Injury Reduction (PIR) program which encourages injury prevention and effective health, safety and disability management systems in the workplace. It is a voluntary joint effort by the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), Alberta Occupational Health & Safety, industry partners, safety associations, employers and labour groups. Due to the effectiveness of our systems, and as a participant in COR, PIR and the Partnership Audit Standard Equivalency (PASE), Syncrude in 2016 received a reduction on our annual WCB premiums of $300,000.

For the second year in a row, Syncrude’s Mildred Lake and Aurora operations were recognized with the John T. Ryan Safety Award for achieving the lowest 2016 reportable injury rate in the regional select mines category. For more information, click here.

Leadership Symposium and Safety Awards

Each year, Syncrude convenes our annual Loss Prevention Leadership Symposium and Safety Awards, bringing together senior leaders from across the organization, supplier companies and building trades associations, to discuss best practices in safety performance.

As part of the annual summit, Syncrude takes the opportunity to recognize suppliers and internal departments for outstanding safety performance and demonstrated leadership. Honours for 2016 performance include:

  • Diversified Transportation - Most Improved Loss Prevention, over 250K exposure hours
  • Finning - Most Improved Loss Prevention, under 250K exposure hours
  • Acden Bee Clean – Sustained Performance, Loss Prevention Excellence, over 250K exposure hours
  • Premay Equipment - Sustained Performance, Loss Prevention Excellence, under 250K exposure hours
  • AMEC Earth & Environmental, Bear Slashing, Canadian Dewatering, Christina River Enterprises, Conetec Investigations, G.E. Canada, Lemax Machine & Welding, SGS Canada, Siemens Canada, SmogBuster, Sunset Recycling, TISI Canada – Five to nine years with no recordable injuries
  • Acrodex, Baker Hughes, Bayzik Oilsands, Honeywell, Northern Plains Moving, Premay Equipment, SMS Equipment, WAJAX – 10+ years with no injuries
  • Syncrude Aurora Mining, Dumps and Structures – Best Overall Business Team, Loss Prevention Excellence
  • Syncrude Aurora Mining, Trucks - Most Improved Business Team, Loss Prevention Excellence
  • Syncrude Technical Operations Support - Operations Department, Loss Prevention Excellence
  • Syncrude Human Resources - Corporate Department, Loss Prevention Excellence

Response to Regional Wildfire

Syncrude assisted in battling the May wildfire which forced the evacuation of the city of Fort McMurray and surrounding oil sands operations. Sixty full-time firefighters and emergency responders joined regional efforts to manage the blaze in addition to approximately 30 volunteers (fire brigade members and heavy equipment operators).

The wildfire eventually encompassed around 5,900 square kilometres – approximately the size of Prince Edward Island. It triggered the largest wildfire evacuation in Alberta’s history, impacting over 80,000 residents and another 20,000 from regional industrial operations, including our own. More details on Syncrude’s response can be found in the Operations and Economic Value chapter.

Oil Sands Safety Benchmarking

Source: Syncrude, Oil Sands Safety Association

Regional Safety Initiatives

Through the Oil Sands Safety Association (OSSA), Syncrude and other oil sands industry partners continued work to align safety training requirements for contractor workers. The goal is to reduce training redundancies and allow contractor workers to move easily and safely among oil sands sites. OSSA is a non-profit organization comprised of representatives from Syncrude and three other developers, plus labour providers, unions, area contractors and learning providers.

Performance Data

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Employee lost-time incident rate1 0.02 0.02 0.09 0.02 0.09
Contractor lost-time incident rate1 0.05 0.05 0.05 0.03 0.08
Combined employee and contractor lost-time incident rate1 0.04 0.04 0.06 0.02 0.09
Employee lost-time injuries (#) 1 1 5 1 4
Contractor lost-time injuries (#) 6 7 6 2 5
Combined employee and contractor lost-time injuries (#) 7 8 11 3 9
Employee total recordable incident rate1 0.66 0.71 0.56 0.30 0.53
Contractor total recordable incident rate1 0.80 0.71 0.62 0.63 0.58
Combined employee and contractor recordable incident rate1 0.76 0.71 0.60 0.49 0.56
Employee recordable injuries (#) 36 38 30 15 25
Contractor recordable injuries (#) 97 103 81 45 34
Combined employee and contractor recordable injuries (#) 133 141 111 60 59
Syncrude injury severity rate 0.60 2.25 4.60 0.60 4.49
Contractor injury severity rate 2.52 5.45 2.44 2.53 5.93
Syncrude and contractor injury severity rate 1.92 4.59 3.07 1.74 5.29
Injury-free performance - maximum hours between LTIs (million hours) 5.90 10.20 10.70 9.66 4.6
Employee health - new long-term disability (LTD) cases (#) 28 29 21 15 26
Employee and contractor health - health centre visits (#) 14,049 14,262 13,349 10,437 11,308
Employee fatalities (#) 0 0 0 0 0
Contractor fatalities (#) 0 1 0 0 0
On-site responses by emergency services (#) 1,487 2,032 1,698 2,053 1,235
Off-site responses by emergency services (#) 82 68 96 39 31
EH&S professionals on staff (#) 118 122 104 119 113
Workforce represented in formal joint management-worker H&S committees (i.e. safe operating committees) (%) 100 100 100 100 100
Health and safety convictions (#) 0 0 1 0 0
On-site workforce2 (#) 16,830 18,923 17,532 11,518 10,337
Workforce hours (million) 35.3 39.7 37.0 24.3 21.2

1 Includes occupational illnesses.
2 Full-time equivalent.

• A lost-time incident is an injury/illness that requires medical attention and results in the worker being absent from work beyond the day of the injury/illness; lost-time incident statistics include all lost time injuries/illnesses and fatalities.
Total recordable incident rate includes all injuries/illnesses requiring medical attention, involving work restrictions, or that resulted in a worker being absent from work (recordable injury/illness statistics include all non-first aid injuries/illnesses); it is expressed as injuries/illness per 200,000 work hours.
Injury severity is the average rate of lost workdays per lost-time injury/illness; only lost-time injuries/illness have days lost.