Sustainability at Suncor

Personal and process safety

We place safety above all else. It’s our number one value and nothing matters more.

Safety must be a conscious and consistent effort to ensure that everyone in every role goes home safe. Nothing is more important. Unfortunately, in 2019 our safety performance was unfavourable, a stark reminder that we cannot become complacent and that safety must always be a priority focus.

Personal safety

We believe safety above all else is essential. As such, we promote safety conversations and participation through a variety of activities and processes, including:

Two workers in full personal protective equipment standing at Suncor’s Base Plant

Contractor safety

Each year, we hire thousands of contractors to work at Suncor job sites. In 2019, we tasked ourselves to look at contractor safety differently. Multiple contractor safety forums were held to have open and honest safety discussions. This included engagement with companies before they start work at our sites to ensure they have a complete understanding of the expectations and standards of executing work safely.

In April 2019, we suffered the tragic loss of a contractor colleague at Fort Hills who was involved in a pedestrian/vehicle incident. Post incident investigation, key incident findings and recommendations were shared across the company, and a communication package and best practice checklist for site personnel was issued across our Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (RMWB) sites to reinforce knowledge and understanding of the hazards and mitigations related to driving and working in and around light duty vehicles. Understanding, reflecting and learning from this event is not only necessary, but also critical to reminding us that we can never stop thinking about safety for every task we do.

Health and wellness

In 2019, well-being and existing wellness program awareness were a focus across the company. We continue to evaluate the needs of our people to support them in focusing on their overall well-being – and mental health is a large component of this. We recognize that foundational safety principles, such as mind on task, can only be achieved when our well-being is being taken care of.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, our emergency response management teams and leaders connected daily to navigate our way through the unprecedented circumstances. We understood the responsibility we had, and still have, as an organization to help ‘flatten the curve,’ while continuing to provide the energy our society needs. Our main focus has always been on the well-being and safety of our people, their families, our customers and communities. This focus guided our decisions to move to essential personnel early and introduce health and safety measures and protocols (shared internally and externally). Examples of measures include physical distancing, remote workforce enablement, flight changes and increased sanitization across our operations and retail sites.

Focusing on psychological safety and mental health

Mental health and psychological safety has never been more important.

Indicators of psychological well-being include an employee’s level of happiness, life satisfaction, contribution, and positive mental health. It is important that our workers feel psychologically safe in the workplace in order to prevent harm to themselves or others.

Mental health is also a critical component of being fit for duty. Those struggling with mental health issues can experience cognitive and physical fatigue, which can impair decision-making, decrease reaction time and attention to detail, and increase incident rates. Training our leaders and our workforce on mental health and psychological safety is paramount.

We need to create a space where people feel safe to discuss when their mental health may be affecting their fitness for duty. Those conversations can’t happen without psychological safety. A core component of psychological safety is the ability to discuss and address problems in a constructive manner.
Iordanka Petzanova
mental health specialist for Suncor

In order to help workers prioritize their mental health and ensure they focus on personal safety, Suncor provides resources to help during times of uncertainty or stress. Leadership training and other mental health awareness activities are also underway to promote a psychologically safe environment and break the stigma around mental health issues.

Emergency management

To standardize emergency management across the company, in 2019, we implemented a standardized emergency management system following the principles of the international Incident Command System. This system provides a standardized enterprise-wide approach to improve our effectiveness and efficiency, as well as aligns to our governments, regulators and peers.

Process safety and reliability

Process safety management helps reduce the frequency and severity of unexpected releases from process equipment like pressure vessels and pipelines. When we proactively reduce these incidents, we prevent hazardous conditions that could harm employees or the surrounding environment. Improving process safety performance can reduce unscheduled maintenance and improve overall reliability so our facilities run more efficiently. An efficient operation is safer for employees, lowers production costs, uses less water and energy, and improves carbon intensity.

We continue to see notable achievements in process safety. Our ongoing focus on asset reliability and monitoring has resulted in a significant decrease in unplanned releases. We also continue to improve and strengthen our pipe inspection plans to provide up-to-date health monitoring of our pipe conditions and life cycles.

We are also seeing progress in our application of critical process safety programs. This includes the identification of instrumented safeguards, and the implementation of maintenance programs and stewardship to achieve the required level of risk mitigation, and how we monitor and report on impacts to our operating parameters.

Operational controls

As our business grows, we are seeing and capitalizing on more opportunities for regional and enterprise-wide safe work practices and procedures, as well as looking for opportunities for digital enablement. The front-line workforce is engaged in the creation of processes and we seek opportunities for standardizing how we work.

We are working to enhance our incident investigation training to ensure learnings are embedded in our work practices and mitigating actions are implemented, supported by audits and management reviews.


Suncor applies the Operational Excellence Management System to manage process safety and reliability.

Health and safety performance

In 2019, we focused our safety efforts on personal and process safety performance. This includes working towards reducing recordable injury frequency (RIF), loss of primary containment and high-risk incidents.

Recordable Injury Frequency

We finished 2019 with a combined employee and contractor Recordable Injury Frequency (RIF) performance of 0.39, higher than our 2019 target of 0.33. This is disappointing given our progress in reducing this over the past five years.

Lost Time Injury Frequency

Our combined employee and contractors Lost Time Injury Frequency (LTIF) for 2019 was 0.04, which is relatively stable in relation to our five-year performance. The increase in 2019 employee LTIF was due to slips, trips and falls and ‘line of fire’ related incidents.

Process Safety Tier 1 and 2 loss of primary containment events

We have seen Tier 1 and Tier 2 process safety events declining from 180 events in 2015 to 39 events in 2019. This improvement is due to our committed focus on process safety governance and initiatives.

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