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. Changing behaviours and keeping safety top of mind will make it possible for us to reach our goal of having an incident-free workplace.

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.

Safey Commitments

Our safety commitments reinforce the behaviour and attitude we want to see from our employees and contractors. Learn more about the safety commitments.

In 2015, we:

  • Had our strongest year ever for safety performance, with a total recordable injury frequency (TRIF) of 0.39, a 40 percent improvement from 2014
    • part of this improvement was due to our increased focus on significant incidents. We analyzed the root cause of incidents and near misses that had the potential to cause life-altering injuries. By taking corrective actions and sharing learnings from these types of incidents, we were able to improve key processes and reduce the number of significant incidents from 43 in 2014 to 37 in 2015, and our goal is to continue to improve.
  • Introduced and adopted eight life-saving rules in a series of campaigns from March through December
  • Continued to conduct campaigns throughout the year to keep safety top of mind. These campaigns included Start Safe, Restart and Winter Work.
  • Celebrated safety milestones across our operations, including:
    • one year and approximately 1.75 million hours worked without a recordable injury at our field accommodations
    • a zero-injury frequency and over 3.3 million hours worked by our southern Alberta teams

At Cenovus, service providers and contractors work across our operations every day. It is critical that they are as committed to safety as our employees. Our Supply Chain Management team has developed a supplier registration, qualification and requalification process to ensure we select and retain suppliers who share Cenovus’s values, including safety. The selection process leverages an internal health and safety intelligence reporting tool that stores contractor safety information and scores contracting companies on their performance. The tool summarizes a contractor’s health and safety performance over a specific timeframe and can include:

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

Learn more about our approach to contractor safety »

We demonstrated our commitment to safety through our Health and Safety Stewardship Awards in 2015. These company-wide awards recognized contractors and consultants working for Cenovus who consistently demonstrated their commitment to the health and safety of workers. Winners were each awarded $2,500 that is donated in their name to a charity or non-profit organization of their choice. A total of 37 contractors were recognized at events in Brooks, Cold Lake, Conklin, Medicine Hat, Weyburn and at our Pelican Lake project.

In 2015, we introduced eight life-saving rules. These safety rules not only reduce the likelihood of injuries but also save lives. They focus on reducing risks our field workers can be exposed to, through actions such as taking appropriate precautions when working at height or isolating energy sources before starting work. Some of the rules also apply to off-the-job risk exposures.

We ran eight mini-campaigns across our operations throughout 2015 to introduce and implement the life-saving rules. Each rule was highlighted separately during the year and a variety of tools were developed to help educate staff including presentations, fact sheets and FAQs. Leaders were also provided with materials to help put these vital rules into practice. These life-saving rules complement our current safety commitments, policies, practices, standards and processes which, when combined, set the foundation for achieving our target of zero injuries.

Each of our facilities has an emergency response plan designed specifically for that operation. To help emergency response teams respond to incidents in a coordinated way, we follow a systematic incident command structure with defined roles and responsibilities. Throughout the year, we carried out 19 emergency response exercises involving 316 participants. To evaluate our level of preparedness and response, we also conducted three full-scale emergency exercises that involved our senior leaders, teams from across the company and various third parties like the Alberta Energy Regulator.

Foster Creek forest fire response

Our emergency response plan was activated on May 23, 2015 in response to a forest fire on the Cold Lake Air Weapons Range (CLAWR). As a result of the fire, we made the precautionary decision to evacuate operations at our Foster Creek oil sands project and our Athabasca natural gas operation in northern Alberta. The facilities were shut down in a safe and orderly manner and nearly 1,800 staff left the sites by vehicle and by helicopter. There was a significant level of coordination between Cenovus teams, Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, and 4 Wing Cold Lake and CLAWR Range Control to keep our staff and our facilities safe.

After being shut down for 11 days, our teams got Foster Creek up and running again, safely and efficiently. A wildfire lookback report was created to summarize our response to the emergency and the learnings that came from it. We’re using those learnings to strengthen our processes for working with CLAWR so we can continue to improve our response plan for future incidents. Learnings included clarifying certain roles and responsibilities during an emergency, increasing the level of detail in some sections of the emergency response plan and providing more detailed instructions for shutting down equipment when a site is evacuated.

In addition to the safety processes involved in the response, our emergency communications plan was also activated to ensure staff, the general public and our communities were adequately informed about the fires. After the initial notification of the emergency, we updated our external website and social media channels every day with new information as the incident unfolded. These updates became a reliable source of information for investors, media, staff and the general public. We were recognized for our approach by IR Magazine, which nominated us for an award for Best Crisis Management.

Process safety combines engineering and management disciplines to prevent spills and other incidents. At Cenovus, process safety is governed by the Cenovus Operations Management System (COMS) Framework. COMS sets the requirements and expectations for risk identification, assessment and mitigation, and for continuous improvement at our operations.

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 I process safety events are 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$25,000 or a highly toxic or flammable release over a certain threshold.

Tier II process safety events are 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 2015, Cenovus had one Tier I process safety event and five Tier II process safety events, all of which were resolved without injury to workers in the area:

  • A Tier I event occurred when a tank was being cleaned and some residual diluent vapourized and overwhelmed the vapour recovery unit. A relief valve then released hydrocarbon vapours into the atmosphere.
  • Three Tier II events occurred involving leaks of fluids from equipment. One glycol leak occurred inside an unoccupied building and there were two separate events of hydrocarbon diluent and slop oil being released.
  • Two Tier II events occurred involving gas releases. A broken valve resulted in a natural gas release above the explosive threshold in an unoccupied building. In another event, an H2S alarm was activated while oil was being loaded into a tanker truck due to an ineffective H2S scrubber used during the process. H2S scrubbers act like filters to remove H2S from any gas that passes through the scrubber.

Safety critical element identification process

In 2015, the process safety team did an analysis of safety critical elements across our company. Safety critical elements include any device or piece of equipment that’s required to maintain safety and prevent an incident from occurring. Our safety critical element identification process ensures that the equipment judged most important in preventing an incident is properly identified and prioritized at the top of our maintenance list.

CAPP has been working with industry over the past few years with the goal of developing a process safety framework to ensure there are standards in place to prevent serious incidents from happening. They have formally requested that Cenovus’s approach to safety critical element identification be used as a foundation to develop a CAPP Best Management Practice to be shared with other companies.

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.

Injury frequency for employees and contractors

Injury frequency for employees and contractors

In 2015, our total recordable injury frequency (TRIF), which is the number of injuries per 200,000 hours worked, improved by 40 percent from our 2014 rate. This was the lowest TRIF we’ve had since the company formed in December of 2009. In 2015, 60 workers sustained an injury on our sites which required more than basic first aid treatment; in 2014, 147 workers sustained these types of injuries. As we pursue our goal of zero injuries, we continue to focus on prevention through process and equipment design and engineering as well as awareness campaigns and programs.