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5 things oil and gas companies need to know about health and safety


There are a number of safety, compliance, and environmental risks oil and gas companies face. Having standardized quality, health, safety, and environment (QHSE) processes are crucial for any business in the industry.

By not complying with these processes and standards, companies face stiff fines or penalties that could derail growth, margins, and competitive advantages. In Ontario, for example, the maximum fine for corporations per conviction under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) recently tripled to $1.5 million. The maximum fine for an unincorporated business or individuals? It's quadrupled to $100,000 while individuals may be sentenced for up to 12 months in prison.

  1. Alberta has already passed legislation to update both the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act and the Workers' Compensation Act. As of June 1, employers will need to meet a number of new requirements. For example:
    • Those with 20 or more employees at a worksite are required to have a written health and safety program as well as a joint worksite health and safety committee.
    • Employers must notify the provincial government when there's a serious injury, incident, or death so an investigation can take place and help stop future incidents.
  2. Employees in Alberta have the right to refuse dangerous work, and they must be paid while a work refusal is being investigated. Employees are also protected from retaliation by their employer. These changes will bring Alberta in line with other provinces. While each province has their own health and safety regulations, they're fairly similar in principle.
  3. At the federal level, organizations or their employees may also face a penalty for any violations resulting in an injury or death. Section 217.1 of the Criminal Code states:

    “Every one who undertakes, or has the authority, to direct how another person does work or performs a task is under a legal duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that person, or any other person, arising from that work or task.”

  4. There are certain occupational health and safety standards employers can follow. According to the International Organization for Standardization, the new ISO 45001 provides “a framework to improve employee safety, reduce workplace risks and create better, safer working conditions.”
  5. Alberta employers can get a certificate of recognition (COR), which is given to them by the government for developing health and safety programs that have been evaluated by a certified auditor and meets provincial standards. Organizations with 10 or more employees can receive a COR while businesses with fewer than 10 employees can get a small employer certificate of recognition (SECOR).

The role of technology in health and safety

Reducing operational, regulatory, and reputational risk is a priority for many companies in the oil and gas sector. There are many oil and gas producers that won't work with businesses that don't have either a COR or SECOR. Being compliant with health and safety standards is also a good way to attract and retain employees. And technology can play a role in the reducing risk.

In the past, the human resources (HR) and information technology (IT) departments have been very separate. Now, HR is working with IT in order to improve processes. Having the right software and technology can reduce the amount of time needed for health and safety reporting, such as identifying hazards.

For example, if a worker notices a muddy or icy surface, he or she can take a photo to log the hazard with their smartphone or tablet, the risk is assessed, corrective actions are recorded and logged, and a notification that the hazard has been taken care of is created. The use of technology speeds up the process significantly and reduces the amount of paperwork that needs to be completed.

QHSE management software can reduce complexity and costs. Manual forms don't need to be filled out, job safety analysis worksheets can be created quickly, and training or certification can be easily tracked and searched.

Having one integrated solution—instead of multiple software programs—is easier to manage and use. The system should be accessible on a mobile phone or tablet and flexible so the end user can make customized configurations. It should also provide a consistent user experience, which isn't possible by using individual systems.

For more information on this or other issues facing your business, please contact us.

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