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Creative Sentencing Interim Report

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  • Efforts related to the safety and performance of oil sands tailings storage and transportation facilities have traditionally focused on preventing catastrophic failures. However, a recent death related to ground hazards near oil sands tailings facilities, dykes, and transport systems illustrates the need for improved worker safety during daily operations near these facilities. This interim report serves to provide an update on the creative sentencing project resulting from that fatality and represents an initiative between the oil sands industry, regional contractors, the Province of Alberta, and the University of Alberta. A holistic approach to operations and worker safety is beneficial for identifying hazards in the dynamic tailings environment. Of particular concern are ground hazards in oil sands tailings operations as they can be invisible to and unexpected by workers with no training relevant to ground hazard identification operating near tailings facilities, dykes, and transport systems. Data continue to be collected from four sources: the Energy Safety Canada tailings hazard inventory, the University of Alberta initial ground hazard assessment, interviews with tailings workers, and oil sands tailings operations incident databases. These four datasets are being compared to determine similarities and differences and enhance the current hazard identification tools and controls for ground hazards. Process safety management tools such as Root Cause Analysis, Event Tree Analysis, and the Bowtie Risk Assessment Method are being used to cluster the tailings hazard inventory and identify areas for enhanced controls. Energy Safety Canada subject matter experts are reviewing the bowtie diagrams to ensure applicability to tailings operations. Two work environment databases (summer and winter) of representative tailings facilities, dykes, and transport systems have been created. These include photos that identify ground hazards in the tailings operations. A general ground hazard database has also been created as the ground hazards in tailings operations are similar, but how they manifest is dependent on the working area and temporal factors. Over 100 interviews have been completed to date with frontline tailings workers, safety personnel, engineers, supervisors, leadership, and regional contractors. Preliminary analysis indicates that workers are aware that tailings operations are a dynamic and high-risk work environment. Tailings incident databases are being analyzed for leading indicators to identify precursory events that will ideally assist in the identification of hazards prior to the occurrence of high-consequence events. The data have been categorized by hazard type. Incidents in the ground hazard category include slips, trips, and falls; stuck or sunk equipment; pipeline leaks; and geotechnical hazards (i.e., berm breaches, washouts, and over-poured cells). Preliminary results indicate that one-fifth of incidents in the tailings area are related to ground hazards. In phase two of the project, analysis of the datasets will continue and findings will be shared with the industry through workshops, conference presentations, and academic journal publications. This research will be presented at four conferences in 2018, including the Petroleum Safety Conference, Canadian Institute of Mining conference, Geohazards 7, and GeoEdmonton.

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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International