December was a hazardous month to work in the fossil industry, with workers killed or injured on projects in Alberta, British Columbia, and Minnesota.
At Suncor Energy’s Fort Hills tar sands/oil sands mine in Alberta, two workers were killed when a bulldozer collided with their pickup truck, CBC reports. An RCMP spokesperson said a 29-year-old man from Bloomfield, NL and a 28-year-old woman from Calgary were pronounced dead at the scene. They were both employees of mining services contractor ClearStream Mining.
In B.C., federally-owned Trans Mountain Corporation announced a two-week voluntary shutdown after a worker was seriously injured at a construction site. In October, pipeline construction worker Samatar Sahal died in Edmonton after he was struck by a piece of equipment.
“Trans Mountain is proactively taking the step to temporarily stand down construction on the expansion project to review, reset and refocus our efforts, and those of our contractors and their workers,” President and CEO Ian Anderson said in a statement. “Over the past two months, we have seen safety incidents at our worksites that are unacceptable to Trans Mountain. This is inconsistent with Trans Mountain’s proud safety culture.”
A couple of days later, Trans Mountain announced it was severing ties with two of its contractors—SA Energy Group, which had employed Sahal before he died, and a joint venture between Spiecapag Canada Corp. and Macro Enterprises Inc. of Fort St. John. “We do not wish to comment on the terms of our contractual relationships with contractors,” Trans Mountain said in a release. “What we can say is that Trans Mountain is committed to a strong culture of safety above all else and insist that our project contractors and subcontractors are equally committed.”
This week, a retired pipeline executive said the sudden, temporary shutdown was likely a decision of last resort. “Major construction projects never want to stop once they get going,” former TransCanada executive vice-president Dennis McConaghy told CBC.
Days after the Trans Mountain announcement, a contractor was killed on Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline replacement project in Hill City, Minnesota. “A company spokesperson said the company reinforced safety standards and protocols as work paused at the site and across the project for a safety stand down before resuming the next day,” industry newsletter JWN Energy writes.