Nothing is more important than the safety of our employees, contractors and the people in the communities where we operate. In addition to the company’s responsibility to create a safe workplace, we emphasize the personal responsibility all our workers have for their own safety and that of their co-workers. We have a management system in place – the Cenovus Operations Management System (COMS) – which provides a consistent framework to help our teams manage risk and ensures we have the processes and controls in place to operate safely. In order to protect the public in the communities where we operate, we have an incident management system to ensure that if an incident or near miss does occur, we’ll respond to it in a safe and timely way, we’ll investigate it carefully to learn from it and take corrective actions to prevent it from happening again.

We encourage participation and leadership in health and safety at all levels of the company, starting with visible and active engagement from our Leadership Team. We provide support to leaders across the company on health and safety initiatives, ensuring effective processes for identifying and controlling hazards, providing training, and working collaboratively with employees and contractors. We also give supervisors at all levels the tools and support they need to coach and mentor staff, so they can demonstrate the importance of safety through their daily actions and behaviours.

Safey Commitments

Our safety commitments clarify our beliefs and expectations for how safety is to be managed at Cenovus. Two of our eight commitments reflect a legal obligation for workers to refuse unsafe work and raise concerns about hazards seen. Learn more about the safety commitments.

The table below provides an overview of our safety goal and provides recent examples of how we’re working towards it. Our safety goal reinforces the absolute importance of safety in our company – both the safety of our staff and the safety of the communities where we work. In order to achieve our goal, we will need to focus on success in a few key areas, some of which include process safety, contractor safety management, incident management and the implementation of life-saving rules. Learn more in this section about how we’re managing each of these issues.

Our goal Our recent performance examples

To achieve zero significant incidents.

  • We measure progress towards our goal by setting internal targets for Total Recordable Injury Frequency (TRIF) and Tier 1 and 2 process safety events:
    • while we didn’t beat our all-time TRIF low from 2015, we achieved a TRIF of 0.43 in 2016 which was a strong improvement from our performance levels in 2014 and earlier
    • we improved our process safety performance in 2016, with no Tier 1 process safety events and six Tier 2 process safety events

In 2016, we achieved the following safety milestones:

  • We reached 50 days without a recordable injury at our upstream and downstream operations. That’s the first time as a company that we’ve reached this milestone, and the fourth time we’ve exceeded 30 days recordable injury free
  • We reached more than 25 years − or 9,100 days − of work without a lost-time incident at our Weyburn operations. That’s the longest streak of its kind across the company
  • Four of the operations teams at Christina Lake worked a total of more than 50,000 days without a recordable injury, dating back to December 2015
  • One of the operations teams at our Foster Creek operations surpassed 1,000 days without a recordable injury
  • Staff at our Pelican Lake operations worked the first 200 days of 2016 without a recordable injury
  • We received the Association of American Railroads Grand Slam award for rail safety. The Grand Slam award is handed out each year to shippers of hazardous products that have shipped at least 100 cars without having a non-accident release and have been recognized for their efforts by at least four Class 1 railroads in North America
  • Phillips 66 employees and contractors who operate our jointly-owned Borger and Wood River refineries in the U.S. achieved their best ever health and safety results in 2016. The combined total recordable injury rate (called injury frequency in Canada) for both operations was 0.13. These are industry-leading results and the best in the history of our refinery partnership with Phillips 66

At the start of each year, leaders facilitate a series of sessions in the field to reflect on our health and safety performance from the previous year, to celebrate what we’ve done well, to recognize the opportunities we have to get better and to renew our commitment to safety. The program is called Start Safe. In 2016, the Start Safe meetings focused on how to conduct shift handovers safely.

Learn more about our Start Safe program »


In 2016, we continued to implement the eight life-saving rules across our field operations. As we integrate learnings from our new staff and operations in the Deep Basin asset, we’ll continue to adapt and evolve our life-saving rules to reflect the changing safety requirements of our business. These safety rules not only reduce the likelihood of injuries, they also save lives. The rules focus on eliminating unsafe behaviours through activities like taking precautions when working at heights or isolating energy sources before starting work. Some of the rules also apply to off-the-job risk exposures.

Learn more about the life-saving rules »

In 2017, we used our January Start Safe meetings to highlight the life-saving rules and to bring them to life for staff. A printed pocket guide was created for field workers so they’d have information about the life-saving rules on hand at all times. The guide included:

  • Information on each life-saving rule and the associated expectations of staff and supervisors on how to follow the rules
  • Tips on how to asses work, determine if a life-saving rule applies, and how to create a plan to remove or manage any hazards in the way of executing a task safely
  • Advice on how to speak up and raise concerns about health and safety if someone is not considering or following a life-saving rule

At Cenovus, we use a methodology known as TapRooT to help us identify the root cause(s) of significant incidents at our operations. In 2016, we moved from training large groups of staff on root cause analysis to only training a small group of key facilitators, and having them conduct all root cause analyses across the company. Going forward, these individuals will complete two to three root cause reports per quarter, ensuring that their competence remains high. Since making the change to using a small group of root cause analysis facilitators, the quality of information in our reports has improved by over 20 percent. By identifying the correct root causes, we are in a position to fix problems rather than treat symptoms.


Service providers and contractors account for roughly 75 percent of the hours worked at our operations, so it is critical that they are as committed to safety as our staff. Through our health and safety and supply chain processes, we collect information to help us select contractors based on:

  • Past safety performance with other oil and gas companies
  • Hazards, incidents and near misses reported on Cenovus sites
  • Contractor health and safety program quality
  • Results of contractor health and safety inspections and reviews conducted by Cenovus staff

Learn more about our approach to contractor safety »

Verifying contractor drug and alcohol policies

Cenovus has a comprehensive Alcohol & Drug Program, which includes our policy, practice, guidelines, forms and training. The program helps minimize health risks and unsafe work performance due to alcohol or drugs. When working with contractors, we expect all of them to have a fully-implemented alcohol and drug program that meets or exceeds the Cenovus program.

In 2016, we began evaluating our contractors’ alcohol and drug programs using ISNetworld, a database we use to access information on contractors. All contractors must have an alcohol and drug program score of 100 percent in order to continue working at our field sites. As part of the evaluation, we conducted contractor health and safety program assessments, field verification snapshots and spot checks. Our goal is to assess a company’s alcohol and drug management in a way that is collaborative and constructive to ensure that Cenovus’s health and safety expectations are met so that a high-performance work environment is maintained.

Recognizing contractor safety performance

Cenovus’s annual Health & Safety Stewardship Awards Program recognizes contractors and consultants working for Cenovus who consistently demonstrate their commitment to the health and safety of workers. In 2016, winners were each awarded $1,000 to donate to a charity or non-profit organization of their choice. A total of 41 contractors were recognized individually at Weyburn, Foster Creek, Christina Lake, Pelican Lake and our southern Alberta operations. Since 2009, more than $950,000 has been donated to charitable and non-profit organizations throughout Alberta and Saskatchewan as part of the Health & Safety Stewardship Awards.

Learn more about the Health & Safety Stewardship Awards »


We’re committed to raising awareness of dangerous driving habits and to changing the behaviours that lead to those habits. One example is through our involvement in the Coalition for a Safer 63/881 initiative, which targets improvements in road safety including safe driving behaviours, improved signage and journey management for those travelling on Highways 63 and 881 in northern Alberta.


Each of our facilities has an emergency response plan designed specifically for that operation to help ensure the safety of our employees, contractors and the people in the communities where we operate. To help emergency response teams respond to incidents in a coordinated way, we follow a systematic Incident Command Structure (ICS) with defined roles and responsibilities. Throughout the year, we carried out a variety of different emergency exercises to evaluate our level of preparedness and response. This included:

  • 11 table-top exercises which brought together individuals from across the company to discuss and scope out a response to a potential emergency scenario
  • 12 emergency drills testing specific emergency response skills
  • Three full-scale emergency exercises that involved our senior leaders, teams from across the company and various third parties like the Alberta Energy Regulator

Emergency exercise at our Bruderheim rail terminal

We own a crude-by-rail loading facility near Edmonton, Alberta. A third-party service provider helps us manage the terminal, and we ensure that they apply the same attention to safety, environmental performance and operational excellence that we demonstrate in our oil and natural gas production operations. In 2016, we conducted a major emergency response exercise in Bruderheim in conjunction with the North East Region Community Awareness Emergency Response (NRCAER) organization.

The objectives of the exercise were to:

  • Enhance worker safety through tactical testing of the emergency response plan (ERP)
  • Validate the existing ERP and procedures for the rail terminal
  • Establish strong working relationships with government agencies, local first responders and NRCAER mutual aid partners
  • Identify potential gaps within the ERP and site emergency response procedures and equipment

We brought together teams from across Cenovus in both Calgary and the field, as well as external government agencies, local first responders and stakeholders to participate in the exercise. After the exercise, a report was developed that summarized a number of successes as well as areas for improvement. The report was used to improve the ERP for the area and helped to inform future emergency responses by external responding agencies.

Wildfire emergency response

In May of 2016, we made the decision to evacuate non-essential staff at our Christina Lake operations due to fires in the Fort McMurray area. A month later, we carried out the precautionary shutdown and evacuation of our Pelican Lake facilities when a new wildfire was discovered approximately one kilometre from site. Thanks to the swift actions of our teams, these precautionary measures were conducted safely and with relatively minimal impact on our production.

After facing more wildfire-related emergencies over the past two years, we’ve been working to evaluate our response and identify key learnings to enhance our processes so we can improve our wildfire monitoring, evacuation, shut-down and start-up activities.

Learn more about fire prevention at Cenovus »

In addition to our emergency response actions, we also supported the local community during the Fort McMurray fires. Cenovus made a corporate donation of $100,000 to the Canadian Red Cross to assist with short-term, immediate response and a $10,000 donation to Lac La Biche County to assist with relief expenses. In 2016, Cenovus staff donated over $250,000 to the Canadian Red Cross (including the company match). Several Cenovus teams also supported evacuees and first responders, providing supplies to reception centres, accommodations for evacuees, and air transport options for first responders.


Process safety uses a disciplined approach to manage the integrity of operating systems and processes that involve hazardous substances. At Cenovus, process safety is governed by COMS, which outlines the requirements and expectations for risk identification, assessment and mitigation, and for continuous improvement at our operations. We also have an asset integrity management team that focuses on the reliability and integrity of our operating assets to ensure reliable and predictable performance.

Cenovus follows the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) Process Safety Event Reporting Guide, which is based on the American Petroleum Institute (API) Recommended Practice 754 and the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (IOGP) Report 456. We are also an active member of CAPP’s Process Safety Management Committee and are dedicated to improving process safety at Cenovus and throughout industry through shared learnings and strategies.

Process safety performance

Tier 1 process safety events are defined as all major scale events that involve a process release that leads to a lost time injury, a fatality, a fire or an explosion resulting in damages greater than US$100,000 or a highly toxic or flammable release over a certain threshold.

Tier 2 process safety events are defined as moderate scale events that involve a process release that leads to medical treatment, a fire or an explosion resulting in damages greater than US$2,500 or a highly toxic or flammable release over a certain threshold.

In 2016, Cenovus had industry-leading process safety performance with zero Tier 1 events and six Tier 2 events, all of which were resolved without injury to workers in the area. In all cases the events were investigated to determine root causes, the corrective actions were tracked to conclusion and learning was widely distributed.


Injury frequency for employees and contractors

Injury frequency for employees and contractors

In 2016, our total recordable injury frequency (TRIF) increased from our all-time low in 2015, but remained well below levels from 2014 and previous years.

In 2016, 51 workers sustained an injury on our sites which required more than basic first aid treatment. In 2015, 60 workers sustained these types of injuries.