With an oil strike in Turner Valley, Alberta launched Canada’s energy industry in the early 1900s. Resources were abundant, but experience was in short supply. Workers were expected to learn on the job—and avoid the dangers of a drilling rig’s many moving and often oil-slicked parts: pulleys, wheels, cogs, belts, gears, chains, ropes, planks, tools and equipment.

Not everyone could and worker injuries and deaths occurred. In 1938, the Calgary Herald described working on an oil drilling rig “as one of the most hazardous occupations in the world.”

As the industry grew and advanced, so too has the role of safety. In 1949, the Petroleum Industry Training Service (PITS) was formed to equip oil and gas workers with the knowledge and skills needed to be safer on the job.

Gone are the days when workers would walk off a farm field or out of a high school classroom and on to a rig without knowing the safety risks—and how to avoid them.

With unparalleled development, oil and gas has seen profound changes since that first discovery well in Turner Valley. Canada’s diverse energy sector now includes all matters of resource extraction and processing, with presence from coast to coast to coast.

Companies have made worker safety as much a part of their operations as advancing technologies, maximizing production and delivering shareholder value.

Evolving with a constant goal

In an industry known for its up and down business cycles, worker safety is now an unfailing constant. For the past 10 years, the companies, workers, contractors, trade associations and other stakeholders in our industry have collectively worked towards a common goal of zero injuries and incidents.

Formed on October 2, 2017 through the merger of Enform Canada (Enform) and Oil Sands Safety Association (OSSA), the new organization now represents one voice for safety in the oil and gas industry across the country.

“The merger of these two organizations signals a new day for our industry,” says John Rhind, Energy Safety Canada’s CEO. “Energy Safety Canada will advance the work of its legacy organizations to prevent incidents and to improve the tools, systems and the communications that will accelerate safe work performance.”

Energy Safety Canada will represent and advocate for the industry’s most valuable resource: workers. For workers, that means a reduction in duplicate training and more consistent safety rules from worksite to worksite.

“I’ve been a frontline worker in this industry,” adds Rhind. “I know that workers often experience different sets of safety rules from site to site, which can be confusing and frustrating. Having a single set of safety standards will make it easier for both workers and companies. When we drive complexity out of the system, the result is reduced confusion and safer worksites.”

Through collaboration, industry will pool its expertise and work together to find simple, agreed-upon safety solutions and standards. In turn, these solutions and standards will save time and money, and increase efficiency.

Oil and gas workers

“This merger marks progress in driving continuous improvement in safe work performance across the entire industry,” says Murray Elliott, President, Energy Safety Canada. “We expect that safety performance will improve faster and provide benefits both to workers and companies.”

Energy Safety Canada will be a one-stop-shop for safety expertise; a hub of safety knowledge that delivers effective learning, shares improved safety data analytics, and advocates for the health and safety of those working in the industry and those impacted by industry activity.

Elliott emphasizes, “With our new organization, oil and gas safety in Canada is changing for the better. Our goal is the same as industry’s—zero injuries, zero incidents.”

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