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Energy Safety Canada moving towards common orientation

Striving for the highest standards, not lowest common denominator
Murray Elliott

Weyburn – What used to be known as Enform, and before that, Petroleum Industry Training Society (PITS), is now Energy Safety Canada (ESC). The renaming came about when Enform merged with the Oilsands Safety Association (OSSA) in the fall of 2017.

Murray Elliott is the president of Energy Safety Canada, and he paid a visit to the organization’s Weyburn office on Jan. 31, where he spoke at length to Pipeline News about the organization’s future. He was sporting a “Mission Zero” lapel pin from meeting in Regina with the Workers Compensation Board regarding the province-wide initiative for zero workplace injuries.

He was joined by Bob Ross, long-time Saskatchewan manager for ESC.

As an overview of where Energy Safety Canada has come from, and where it’s going, he said, “There was strategy work done back in 2015, early 2016. It was led by John Rhind. He was asked by a few of the different associations to look at where we are with safety and safety associations, and where do we need to go? What does that strategy look like?”

Rhind became ESC’s CEO.

Ongoing work within Enform and within OSSA. That work was pulled together. A strategy was put together and approved by their member associations.

Asked how OSSA came to be a separate entity from the rest of the industry, Elliott explained that it started from the initial major oilsands companies running what were essentially mining operations, quite different from the rest of oil and gas. But now the things they need to work on are similar to the rest of industry. He asked, “What are the right attitudes? The right behaviours? The right basic trajectory?

“Everybody has done a fantastic job at improving safety over the years. You look back over the past 30 years and you’ll see a continual trend in safety performance improving. There’s always a recognition that what’s gotten you to this point is not what will get you to the next. And so it was that strategy to look at what things we need to do, how we need to do it, and how do we need to be resourced, in order to make the next step towards that common vision of no injuries and no serious incidents.”

That strategy led to the merger. It didn’t happen in 2016 due to the oil economy at the time. On Oct. 2, 2017, the merger took place, with Elliott and Rhind coming in Sept. 1.

“I come from 31 years of experience with Shell. I’ve worked coast-to-coast-to-coast in Canada, all within Canada,” Elliott said. He was general manager for the greater Deep Basin area, and prior to that, vice-president of health and safety for heavy oil, and senior health and safety person for Canada with Shell.

OSSA was a very small organization that did almost everything through third parties and contract work, or, like Enform, fostering the facilitation and collaboration amongst industry players. Enform had roughly 120 people on staff, and OSSA had three. When asked why they didn’t simply stay as Enform, Elliott replied, “What we are really signalling is actually a change of mandate. Enform was an organization and the majority of what it did was training, as did OSSA. There was also some key work leading the collaboration to put more guidelines in place, more interventions.

“What’s different with this Energy Safety Canada is that we are really getting into the space of being far more proactive and leading safety.”

They’re not going to be lobbyists. He explained, “We will not become an advocate. What our goal is, is to become the trusted safety authority, and by that, we expect that we will get asked to engage in the various governments. But we will not become an advocacy association. Our various associations, who are really the owners, are the advocates.”

Better outcomes on worker safety

“Where we are playing is really about getting better outcomes on worker safety. You’ll see a lot of things right now about the young worker and vulnerable worker. Historically, you can look back and every time there’s been a price crash, coming out of recovery, you see injury frequencies come up. That’s either new workers or vulnerable workers coming back in. So we put a lot of work into educating companies and employees about those pitfalls,” he said.

He said they’re working very hard to prevent injuries through their various programs and associations. “Everyone shares that goal of trying not to hurt people. It’s really putting the focus on getting the right people, and making sure they have the right kind of people to do things safely”.

If there’s a surge in activity, do they have the capacity to handle additional training of new workers? He responded by saying 80 per cent of all their training gets done by authorized training providers. “Through all our authorized providers, we have tremendous capacity,” he said. “The bottleneck is always going to be on-the-job, front line supervisors and skilled mentors to bring in workers. That’s where the challenge will always be.”

Where does Saskatchewan fit?

Given Saskatchewan-based oil producers and service companies often express concern about an Alberta focus in most industry organizations, where does Saskatchewan fit in Energy Safety Canada?

Elliott responded, “I’ll be here, as needed. We’ve got an incredibly strong Saskatchewan presence with Bob (Ross) at the helm here.

“Every worker is important. To recognize (the industry) it’s 10 times bigger in Alberta, that means that we can put a lot of resources around driving some of the things we’re driving, and we can benefit the much-smaller British Columbia and Saskatchewan industries; tools, techniques, training,” he said. “So we can actually provide better service, overall, by having this all as part of a larger organization. There’s no doubt, every worker’s safety is critically important to us. We’re trying to drive a number of things to make a difference, and that’s every bit applicable to Manitoba, Saskatchewan or the East Coast.”

“Ninety-nine per cent of everything people do is no different than just across the border,” he said, noting there are some slight differences in regulations between jurisdictions.

“We have mobility of workers. We have workers that can be in Fort St. John, B.C., one day, two days later they’re working in Estevan. What we’re trying to do is try to drive simplification and standardization as much as we can, such that those workers can work anywhere, have the same kinds of expectations, the same kinds of clarity, and eliminate some duplication because of differences that aren’t real,” he said.

Ross said, “That was one of the main reasons in 2009 (Enform) opened up shop in Saskatchewan, to provide better services to our employers here. To hear the voice of them, as well, too, which we do through our advisory committees. The voices and the needs of the provincial industry are definitely heard and heard very clearly. They also hold a seat, Saskatchewan does, on the board.”


Asked what are the issues facing ESC and the industry over 2018-2019, Elliott said, “We have a strategy from our board that’s five years, tied to the merger. It’s the data-driven decisions, agreed standardization. One of our core deliverables is to get one common set of safety rules and life-saving rules. A significant number of companies have adopted these things, with slight difference. We want some commonality in that.”

As an example he said, “Basic things like you don’t work at heights without fall arrest.”

“These are all about caring. We care enough that if people aren’t willing to follow these rules, which are also occupational health and safety regulations in every jurisdiction we work in, if people are not willing to follow them, they’re not going to be employed,” he said, focusing on these few things where people are getting killed if they aren’t followed.

Common safety orientation

“Once you get common safety rules, then you can put in common safety orientations,” he said.

“Most companies require people to do some kind of orientation, often before they even show up on site. These things are slightly different, but they’re subtly different, by the time a lot of the workers have done literally 10 of these things, they couldn’t tell the difference at different sites. We actually lose the value, and we, quite frankly, lose the workers on what’s important,” Elliott said.

By having one common safety orientation, they could have better outcomes and reduce duplication.

He noted this is already in place in the oilsands mining and upgrading sites. It could result in a ticket, similar to what the organization already does with H2S Alive.

“Our idea is to build this out to the rest of our industry, so we’ve got a safety standards council that we’re standing up that will help us. These are senior executives from across the all the industry,” Elliot said.

“We’ve talked to some small companies that are doing literally 30 to 50 of these,” he said, explaining the juggling act they have to do to ensure their workers have proper orientations for diverse clients.

“There’s still going to have to be site-specific when they show up, to talk about specific hazards, muster points, alarms,” Elliott said.

Given the varying standards across the industry, he expects the standards will be at the high end, not the lowest common denominator.

Elliott said the oilsands has a 4.5 hour classroom lecture for this orientation, and they’re piloting a 3.5 hour online version.

“It will be less than a day. Our expectation is that it will for-sure have online, and likely have a classroom (version),” he said.

The oilsands version is a one-time thing, and not refreshed on a cycle like H2S Alive. ESC will assess that for this program. “I think if you have experienced workers, this doesn’t need a lot of repetition.”

Standardization is something within industry control. They’re not trying to change legislation or harmonize it.

“We are working towards making sure we have single IDs for workers and are really able to allow mobility. We are breaking down barriers say between the oilsands and the rest of the upstream business, where we had different fall arrest courses.

“Identification and all the training that goes with it. So (with) unique worker IDs, their training goes with them, even if they change employers, even if they change sectors,” he explained.

“We are trying to break down any barriers. Clearly, we need to comply with all the regulations and legislation in each of the jurisdictions. But where it’s within our control, break down those barriers; make it simpler, make it easier and more effective.

“We still want the outcomes. We want workers trained and able to get to work, but we want to do that in the most efficient, effective way possible,” he said.

Broader issues

The health of the industry and pace of growth or contraction is always a concern, Elliott said. “It’s always something we are careful to watch for is legislative change.”

That can have big impacts, and changes can come in quickly.

Did we lose traction, on the safety front, both in attitude and actual performance with regards to safety over the last four years?

Elliott said, “Data will tell you that performance has improved. It’s not that people have somehow skimped by on lower performance. There’s a lot of companies that put even more focus on it, because they can’t afford to lose the capable people they’ve got for a period of time while they recover.”

He noted that companies look at the safety records of the contractors they hire.

“The data will tell us we’re hurting less people, by frequency and by absolute numbers. The percentage of people that are getting injured is lower. It’s largely because you’ve got a lower percentage of vulnerable workers – green or young workers are a smaller percentage of the workforce. The challenge is, as and when things recover, is not to have those people come in and get hurt.”

The Mission Zero lapel pin exactly aligns with their goals.

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