Happy Alberta-Oil-Patch-Get-Away-with-Murder New Year? After 10 years to investigate and release report, CNRL fined $10,000 – maximum allowed – following regulation violations that killed 2 workers, injured 5 others, 13 in total trapped by devastating tank collapse. All 29 charges against CNRL dropped. Alberta’s “No Duty of Care” energy “regulation” wins & kills, again.

Canadian Natural Resources fined $10,000 following accident that killed two by Ian Bickis & Elizabeth McSheffrey, January 4th 2017, National Observer

Canadian Natural Resources has been fined $10,000 by Alberta’s professional engineering society — the maximum allowed — following an investigation into an accident at an oilsands site that killed two and injured five others in 2007.

In a report released Wednesday, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta (APEGA) says the company has admitted to unprofessional conduct on how it dealt with contract engineers, including supervision at the project site in Alberta nearly 10 years ago.

On April 24, 2007, workers were building a 20-metre high oil tank at the Horizon oilsands project north of Fort McMurray when cables holding up a roof support structure snapped due to high winds. The falling steel structure broke apart, with steel debris striking an electrical consultant, killing him. A scaffolder was crushed and died on the way to the hospital. Two other workers were seriously injured and three others suffered minor injuries.

The two who were killed were foreign workers from China, and among 13 employees trapped by the devastating tank collapse. The engineering association found that the steel cables supporting the roofing structure were inadequate and did not meet regulations.

CNRL guilty of “unprofessional conduct”

“CNRL engaged in unprofessional conduct by failing to ensure that: contractor drawings and procedures were certified by a Professional Engineer as defined by the Engineering and Geoscience Professions Act (and) contractors were competent to perform engineering work,” said the report released on Jan. 4. “The contractors CNRL used to construct the tanks were not APEGA Permit Holders. The individual who developed the erection procedure for the tank’s roof-support structure was not a Professional Engineer in Alberta.”

In addition to the fine, the association says Canadian Natural Resources will have to pay to help develop a new practice standard on outsourcing engineering and geoscience work in the province, and has agreed to sanctions including participation in a province-wide consultation with APEGA members, and paying up to $150,000 for it.

Canadian Natural Resources said in a statement that it is looking forward to developing the new standards and that a senior member of its leadership team will actively participate and work together with the association on the initiative. The company also said that it had changed its safety practices following the tragedy and now requires contracting companies to provide evidence of qualifications before engineering work is done.

CNRL taking incident “seriously”

“We take every incident seriously,” said company spokeswoman Julie Woo in an email. “Following this incident, CNRL took steps to advance our processes to ensure health and safety standards are consistently met by all contractors.”

Last February, Alberta Occupational Health and Safety released the results of its investigation into the accident and concluded that the company did not do enough to ensure that one of its contractors had construction plans certified by a professional engineer. The Chinese engineering firm that Canadian Natural Resources contracted out to pled guilty in 2012 to three workplace safety charges, while 29 charges against Canadian Natural were stayed.

Sinopec Shanghai Engineering Co., the Chinese engineering firm that Canadian Natural Resources contracted out to, pled guilty in 2012 to three workplace safety charges, while 29 charges against Canadian Natural Resources were stayed.

Engineering association spokeswoman Gisela Hippolt-Squair said the association is reviewing provincial legislation for the first time in 30 years and plans to recommend increasing the maximum fine for permit holders to $500,000 per violation.

A discipline committee order that accompanied APEGA’s report described the incident in detail and named CNRL’s conduct as harmful to the “standing of the profession,” and displaying “a lack of knowledge or a lack of skill or judgement.” [Emphasis added]

Editor’s Note: This story was updated at 4:20 p.m. Eastern Time to include comments from CNRL.

DEADLY COLLAPSE: CNRL still working to improve standards after deadly 2007 Horizon oilsands tank roof collapse by Dave Lazzarino, January 4, 2016, Edmonton Sun

A Calgary-based oil and gas company is being forced to pay a $10,000 fine and up to $150,000 to update best practices [Ten years later?  Some “update!”] on outsourcing engineering and geoscience work following the review of a deadly roof collapse in Northern Alberta nearly 10 years ago.

… In May 2007, the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta, the province’s professional engineer regulator [APEGA isn’t a regulator, it’s a shameless Get-Out-of-Jail Free Club], said: “There is no evidence to suggest that unskilled practice or unprofessional conduct played a part in the tragic failure of the structure.”

But in February 2016, the association reopened its review of the incident following a provincial occupational health and safety (OHS) report.

The review, released Wednesday, said CNRL “freely and voluntarily admitted to unprofessional conduct in the engagement and supervision of project contractors performing engineering work.” [Did the “regulators” and Crown cut a deal with CNRL? To admit guilt and in exchange pay $10,000 instead of many times $500,000?]

A discipline committee order said CNRL failed to ensure drawings and procedures had been verified by a professional engineer, did work it was not competent to perform and contracted a company — SSEC Canada, a small arm of Sinopec Shanghai Engineering Company Ltd. — to do the work without first confirming they were competent to do it.

As a result, CNRL has been fined $10,000 — the largest penalty the association can levy — and has been issued sanctions including being forced to work with the regulator to develop new practice standards on outsourcing engineering work and a province-wide consultation to clarify outstanding issues. The sanctions also say the cost of the work, up to $150,000, will be covered by CNRL.

OHS laid 53 charges against CNRL, SSEC Canada and Sinopec in June 2009. All but three charges against SSEC Canada were withdrawn three years later. SSEC Canada pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of its workers, and in 2013 paid fines totalling $1.5 million. [Emphasis added]

[Refer also to:

2016 07 16: Nexen blames workers for major explosion that killed two at tarsands SAGD steam injection site near Fort McMurray

“2016 04 16: “I’m actually outraged.” With Alberta Court’s blessings, Energy giant CNRL derails full public inquiry into foreign workers’ deaths

2016 02 09: Energy giant CNRL derails full public inquiry into foreign workers’ deaths

2014 02 19: With law violations, hazards, waste dumping, air noise land water pollution, permanent water loss, community division, adverse health impacts, lies, fatalities, enabling regulators politicians courts, massive subsidies, PR Panel urges industry to change frac ‘conversation’

2014 02 11: Alberta workplace fatalities close to record numbers in 2013

2009 04 22: 53 Charges for CNRL, Contractors in Deaths of Foreign Workers

Following a record 53 charges laid against three companies for a 2007 accident that killed two workers at the oilsands work site, the Alberta Federation of Labour blames the provincial government for not being more vigilant to prevent such a tragedy.

Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OH&S) announced 53 charges yesterday in connection to the April 24, 2007, accident that also injured four other workers, two seriously, at the Canadian Natural Resources Horizon project, about 75 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

Twenty-nine charges were laid against CNRL, the operator of the Horizon site where the accident occurred. Another 14 charges were laid against contractors SSEC Canada Ltd. and 10 against the Sinopec Shanghai Engineering Company Ltd.

The charges included several counts of failing to ensure the health and safety of the workers. Other charges include failing to ensure that a professional engineer prepared and certified drawings and procedures; failing to ensure the roof support structure inside the tank was stable during assembly; failing to ensure that U-bolt type clips used for fastening rope wire were installed properly; and failing to ensure that wire rope being used was safe.

The three companies are expected to make their first court appearance June 8 in Fort McMurray.

Hong Liang Liu, 33, an electrical engineer, and Genbao Ge, 27, a scaffolder, died after a roof collapsed in a large oil tank where they were working. Both were non-union employees of Sinopec Shanghai Engineering. CNRL had contracted the company to build the tanks in 2006. Liang had been in Canada since September 2006, while Ge arrived in January 2007. Four other Chinese labourers were injured in the collapse. All were temporary labourers.

No one was injured when a second tank collapsed a few weeks later because the area was still under a stop-work order that covered the three of the 15 tanks from the April 24 accident.

“For the duration of the Horizon project, we maintained a strong safety record on the construction site. We were deeply saddened by the tragic deaths of the two contract workers and the related injuries to the associated contract workers. Our heartfelt sympathies are again extended to their families, friends and co-workers,” said CNRL in a statement issued yesterday afternoon.

Through that same statement, the company noted that as the incident is now in “formal legal proceedings,” it will issue no further comments until the matter has been resolved.

Meanwhile, the Alberta Federation of Labour says that once it was learned that a company from a Third World country with substandard construction safety history had been contracted to do the work, the government should have immediately stepped in to ensure the safety of the site.

“The government ignored the warning signs,” said Gil McGowan, AFL president.

… Though he’s pleased the government is proceeding with charges against the companies involved, McGowan said he’s “troubled” over the time it took [this article was written 8 years ago!] and is concerned Crown prosecutors “dragged their heels.”

“We think what happened on the CNRL site was one of the most serious violations of occupational health and safety rules and standards that we’ve seen in this province in a long time, and this is clearly a case where the companies involved have to be held to account,” said McGowan, acknowledging it was satisfying to see the charges hadn’t forgotten the injured workers. Some of the charges, all laid under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, also take into account the injured workers and the severity of their injuries as well as workers present when the accident occurred.

But the bigger concern for the AFL is that it’s not convinced the charges are enough to prevent a another incident. …

“Despite the number of charges being laid, it will be the courts that will determine the facts of the case, and determine the appropriate penalties, if any,” said Barrie Harrison, OH&S spokesman, yesterday. The OH&S Act allows for up to a maximum $500,000 fine for each charge. [Is that why the Crown dropped all 29 charges against CNRL?]

It’s expected the Crown will only move ahead on those charges that carry a reasonable likelihood of conviction, Harrison said.

“Whether it’s 53 charges or one, Occupational Health and Safety takes workplace health and safety extremely seriously and whether it’s an injury on site or a death, or in this case a double fatality, all are taken seriously. I think our record over the last number of years when it comes to the number of charges and prosecutions have proven that.”

When a workplace accident — fatal or not — occurs, OH&S has two years to lay charges. In this case, charges came three days shy of the deadline. 

The investigation takes a number of months and is followed by a review of the file and work with Crown prosecutors to determine what charges, if any, are warranted. [Two years to file 29 charges against CNRL; seven years to drop them all?]

“It’s that process that takes a fair bit of time,” said Harrison. More important, he added, OH&S had to ensure this investigation was proper and thorough because it was focusing on the loss of two lives.

“At the end of the day, that’s probably the most important thing. To us, of course, regardless of where these workers are from, their place of origin, or country of birth, has no bearing, because every worker in Alberta has to be treated the same, and these are people who have friends and families and co-workers like the rest of us, and they deserve nothing less.”

During the OH&S investigation, Alberta Employment and Immigration determined that 132 Chinese temporary foreign workers were not paid from April to July 2007. Their employer was SSEC Canada, and it is yet not clear why they weren’t paid.

As a result, CNRL transferred $3.17 million to the province within the past couple of months for distribution to these workers.

“These funds are now held in a government trust account and we’ve begun the process of verifying individuals’ identity and establishing a process for the distribution of these unpaid earnings,” said Harrison. “We want to make sure that we do exercise all due diligence to ensure that these are getting directly in the hands of those who deserve it.”

Meanwhile, he said the province will make “every reasonable effort” to collect the money from SSEC. If successful, CNRL will be reimbursed accordingly, he added. [Emphasis added]

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