Jim Toth didn’t need all the experience and knowledge gained from more than 25 years as a plumber and pipefitter to see an issue when dewatering pipes would get stuck in the bottom of ponds and sump areas on site. 

“Grabbing and freeing the pipes often required operators to run excavators on the edge of water, increasing risk to people and equipment,” says Jim, who is the Team Lead, Drainage Operations. “What we needed was something to keep the end of the pipe near the top of the water, so our team looked at different types of floats to keep it near the top of the surface.”

After a vendor quoted a very high figure, Fort Hills drainage operations commissioned a learning team with engineers, contractors and frontline workers to come up with an in-house solution.

“The team came up with a way to float the end of suction so it would stay above the floor of the sump and not get stuck in the sand,” says Zeid El Jundi, Manager for Drainage Operations at Fort Hills. “They tested the idea in a trial, and it worked. The solution came from ideas put forward by frontline workers. They deserve the credit for finding a solution that we’ve implemented throughout Fort Hills.”

An after picture of a red pump on the land over a body of water. There are piles of sand and dikes around the water and hose line running from the pump to the water. The sky is grey with clouds.
Fort Hills Drainage Operations developed an improved suction line to minimize the need of equipment going close to water edge to retrieve stuck suction.

The solution also highlights Suncor’s approach to applying its Human and Organization Performance principles to improve safety.

“Learning and improving are one of the five principles and it was demonstrated in how this was solved,” Zeid says. “What this project demonstrates is workers are problems solvers.”

The willingness of leadership at Fort Hills to engage frontline workers and listen to their solutions was also important.

“Our team appreciated the support provided by management,” Jim says. “And I’m really happy we came up with a solution that helps keep people safe at our site.”