Our goals are to achieve a workplace where “Nobody Gets Hurt” and “Everyone Stays Healthy.” Syncrude’s Operations Integrity Management System (OIMS) engages everyone in the awareness, understanding and adoption of safety rules, procedures and standards, and enables us to identify and remove workplace hazards and risks that could cause injuries. A network of safety committees, representing each area of the company, works to identify, discuss and resolve safety and health related issues. These committees share information and safety learnings with business teams across the organization.
There’s nothing more important than the safety and wellbeing of everyone on our site. So it was especially difficult when we lost a member of our Syncrude family near our Aurora site on January 19th 2020. The incident occurred when a contractor company was conducting drilling activities in a remote area of the lease. The worker passed away despite the best efforts of Syncrude and regional emergency services. A team of internal and external experts, led by our Vice President of Health, Safety and Environment, conducted a detailed investigation to understand what occurred and we have implemented steps to prevent a similar tragedy in the future. These include:
- a formal assessment of our technical and field drilling organizations;
- ensuring drilling contractors implement a systems framework to manage drilling activity in accordance with industry best practice and applicable regulatory requirements, which includes verification by Syncrude;
- enhancing procurement processes for evaluating and selecting contractors for high-risk activities, including drilling; and
- sharing lessons learned both internally and with industry through appropriate industry networks.
Syncrude expresses its sincere condolences to those affected by this tragic loss.
For the remainder of 2020, Syncrude made progress in improving safety performance and ended the year with a combined Total Recordable Injury Rate (TRIR) of 0.31.
1 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.
Source: Syncrude, Occupational Health and Safety.
1 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.
covid-19 pandemic response
Syncrude has taken the necessary actions during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure our workers and community are protected while continuing to function as a reliable operator.
From the beginning of the outbreak, a dedicated team has worked to keep our people and facilities safe while responding daily to the ever-evolving situation. Some of our protection efforts include limiting our on-site workforce to those who are critical to maintaining the integrity of our operations and ensuring that only critical work proceeds. Following all public health orders, our administrative, professional and technical employees worked remotely from home for most of 2020. Employees who have been on-site follow the recommended and mandated government measures, including keeping physical distance in the workplace and on commuter buses, as well as wearing masks when required.
Communication has been important to ensure our employees and contractors are informed and demonstrating their responsibilities to prevent illness. This includes mask use, hand hygiene, staying home when sick and cleaning/disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. Furthermore, extensive measures have been put in place, with responses to anyone exhibiting symptoms at work, including immediate isolation and deep cleaning of their workspace.
Health and safety committees
Our Joint Work Site Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) brings together employees and managers from across the operation to identify and solve worksite issues and promote general health and safety awareness. The committee includes two front line workers and one management representative from each of our major operations and support areas. Employee representatives are randomly selected based on nominations by their peers and colleagues. The JHSC is co-chaired by one employee and one management representative, who are chosen by committee members.
contractor safety task force
Syncrude’s relationships play an important role in our organization’s safety culture and values. The contracting companies we work with join our efforts to support Syncrude’s safety as a top priority by assisting in our efforts to create solutions that focus, sustain and improve our overall processes. One example is the Contractor Safety Task Force (CSTF) which was set up in 2020 to develop processes, tools and strategies to improve safety performance, and to provide the framework for a significant and positive shift in the safety culture at Syncrude.
The CSTF streamlines the important safety information being shared and accessed by everyone who works on our site. A safety repository was launched mid-2020 to enable better access to safety information, documents, standards, lessons learned from incidents, and timely topics that can facilitate important safety conversations with teams.
Another tool is the Leaders Safety Handbook which was designed to provide easy access to material to help leaders set the tone for Syncrude’s desired safety culture. The audience is front and second line Syncrude and contractor leaders.
Evaluating our effectiveness
A multi-faceted assessment process guides our review of health and safety performance and helps us achieve provincial certifications that are critical to ongoing operations.
For example, OIMS is evaluated continuously through management oversight and various formal mechanisms. This includes both internally-led assessments as well as those led independently by Joint Venture Participants.
In addition, Syncrude undergoes audits to maintain our Certificate of Recognition, or COR, which is issued by Alberta Occupational Health & Safety to employers who have implemented a workplace health and safety management system that meets provincial standards. The COR is valid for a three-year period, with maintenance audits required for the years in between.
Syncrude also voluntarily 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 joint effort by the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), the Alberta Ministry of Labour and Immigration, Alberta Occupational Health & Safety, industry and safety associations, employers and labour groups.
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. Our external verification for 2019 assessed Syncrude at Level AAA across all indicators encompassing policy, implementation, training, reporting and performance. The review also assessed Syncrude as meeting all requirements under the TSM crisis management and communications planning system protocol.
Sharing knowledge and recognizing excellence
Each year, Syncrude hosts the Loss Prevention Leadership Symposium for our leaders and representatives of contractor companies. The symposium works to provide understanding of what pace-setting organizations do to achieve outstanding safety performance, share learnings and renew commitments to a loss-free workplace. As part of the symposium, Syncrude awards suppliers and internal departments for outstanding safety performance and demonstrated leadership. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health restrictions, the event was cancelled in 2020.
Regional safety initiatives
Energy Safety Canada is the one-stop shop for all oil sands and energy industry safety training. It was formed through the merger of two key industry safety organizations, Enform Canada and the Oil Sands Safety Association (OSSA) in 2017, helping to streamline workplace safety processes across the country. Visit Energy Safety Canada for more information.
health and safety Performance data
|Employee lost-time incident rate1||0.09||0.04||0.12||0.02||0.06|
|Contractor lost-time incident rate1||0.08||0.08||0.04||0.07||0.17|
|Combined employee and contractor |
lost-time incident rate1
|Employee lost-time injuries (#)||4||2||6||1||3|
|Contractor lost-time injuries (#)||5||7||4||6||11|
|Combined employee and contractor|
lost-time injuries (#)
|Employee total recordable incident rate1||0.53||0.37||0.47||0.20||0.17|
|Contractor total recordable incident rate1||0.58||0.50||0.47||0.58||0.41|
|Combined employee and contractor |
recordable incident rate1
|Employee recordable injuries (#)||25||18||23||10||8|
|Contractor recordable injuries (#)||34||44||45||47||27|
|Combined employee and contractor |
recordable injuries (#)
|Syncrude injury severity rate||4.49||4.02||6.60||2.30||4.32|
|Contractor injury severity rate||5.93||1.58||2.22||2.06||22.97|
|Syncrude and contractor injury severity |
|Injury-free performance – maximum |
hours between LTIs (million hours)
|Employee fatalities (#)||0||0||0||0||0|
|Contractor fatalities (#)||0||0||0||0||1|
|EH&S professionals on staff (#)||113||107||101||90||98|
|Workforce represented in formal joint |
management-worker H&S committees
(i.e. safe operating committees) (%)
|Health and safety convictions (#)||0||02||0||0||0|
|On-site workforce3 (#)||10,337||12,929||13,676||12,371||10,661|
|Workforce hours4 (million)||21.2||27.3||28.9||26.1||22.5|
1 Includes occupational illnesses.
2 Administration penalties totaling $400 were issued by the Carrier Services Section of Alberta Transportation after deficiencies were identified in a National Safety Code audit. These deficiencies have since been rectified.
3 Full-time equivalent.
4 Includes Syncrude and contractor workforce hours.
- 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.