Safety is a core value for Suncor. As President and CEO Rich Kruger said during the 2023 third quarter analyst call in November, safety is “a core value—our number one priority is the safety of our people, employees and contractors alike.”

During that call, Rich and other members of the ELT highlighted several recent safety milestones, including a 10 per cent decline in recordable injuries, a 33 per cent reduction in lost time incidents, and no life-threatening injuries within the first three quarters of 2023.

The Downstream operations had no recordable injuries in the third quarter, marking the first injury-free quarter in the Downstream in Suncor’s history. “It is a very focused effort involving leadership, training, procedures, workforce engagement and technology,” said Rich.

Todd Murray, EH&S Manager at Suncor’s Sarnia Refinery, says, "I believe these results represent a total- team effort – we're ensuring our critical controls are in place to prevent serious personal safety events."

The critical control assurance (CCA) program is a part of Suncor’s approach to preventing serious injury and fatality (SIF) events. By developing and adopting a simplified field verification process that verifies the most important controls are in place, Suncor enables leaders to have meaningful conversations with frontline employees. These conversations are supported by an inspection App, which makes it easy to input the results of the field assurances, note positive actions and behaviours, and identify any opportunities for improvement. The data gathered by these inspections can then be used to identify trends and tailor follow-up assurance inspections to what needs the most attention.

Two people in work gear standing at the Sarnia Refinery
Sarnia Refinery Safety Advisors, Josh Elsley and Kim Daborn, review the presence of critical control measures to ensure the safe execution of an excavation activity.

The completion of 4,000 critical control verifications in the third quarter of 2023, a 20 per cent increase from the previous quarter, highlights Suncor's focus on mitigating significant risks.

“This allows us to keep a record of what we are doing well and what changes need to be implemented to improve the safety of our workers," says Todd.

This has been a team effort across the entire organization, with people coming together and understanding the common goals to overcome barriers on site to improve safety procedures.

"I wouldn't attribute our recent progress on safety performance to any one action, or anything that we weren't doing before that we are now,” adds Todd. “It's about maturing our existing programs, along with incorporating the principles of Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) which helps us understand how humans perform and it gives us a framework for building a more resilient organization that can fail safely when inevitable errors occur.”

Implementing HOP leadership training builds on Suncor’s existing approach to the prevention of injury or fatality events. Through HOP, Suncor is encouraging more meaningful engagements with teams, encouraging a no-blame culture, and engaging with field workers to identify solutions to problems.

“Through its foundational principles, HOP can contribute positively to the long-term performance of our company,” adds Todd.

Applying HOP principles to learn and improve and confirming that the critical controls are consistently in place ensures if something does go wrong, Suncor can continue to keep its people safe.