by Aaryn Lambert

    ISEEESA: Safety and Sustainability

    A common ground between safety and sustainability is that sustainability in itself is a form of safety. The prevalence of safety in practice has truly only emerged in the latter part of the 20th century. Sustainability is arguably less established; however, there is a growing concern for sustainable endeavors to transition from a recommended ideology to a way of operating, both in and out of the workplace. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive, and their value is ever increasing for the next generation of young professionals.


    Safety is often demonstrated by an organization’s value in its employees. Company-wide safety policies are now an industry standard, with significant improvements and milestones being reached, resulting in fewer lost-time accidents and company upsets. This can be attributed to increased transparency in the workplace, and as a result the millennial generation is well versed in the role safety plays and ultimately the implications it has on a company’s reputation.

     “I want to know that the company I work for is taking preventative measures to minimize risk and is taking initiative to continually improve their procedures.  It’s important to feel safe in your work environment in order to excel.”

    – Alyssa Scott, 3rd year commerce student, University of Calgary
    The question is: “Why did it take so long for industry to take action against unsafe work environments?” Over the last two decades, there have been persistent efforts aimed to improve safety within the industry, with a more tactical focus placed on preventative safety outcomes, such as leadership, work-place culture and behavior.

    Many companies place safety as a core value. Presently, there are rapid changes taking place on a global scale. This can be attributed to the apparent shift in societal mentality, moving toward a more knowledge-based economy—an economy that relies heavily upon creativity, mental stamina, and the intellectual capacity of its workers.

    Since our transition from a “brawn” based economy to a “brain” based economy, the assumed intellectual productivity of workers has become more important, and inherently leads to expectations to continually exceed performance standards. A company’s productivity can be attributed to improvements in both individual and organizational efficiencies. The ultimate goal of the organization is to uphold their safety commitments to employees and the communities they operate in, while remaining competitive in the global market.


    “The first rule of sustainability is to align with natural forces, or at least not try to defy them.”

    – Paul Hawken

    At the dawn of the industrial age, the focus was primarily on productivity and efficiency, with little focus on safety and sustainability. As equipment and personnel perished in production, practices were implemented to offset the immediate risk to human life, thus safety standards were introduced. As we continue to grow through education and in population, our need for sustainability has become more apparent and an equivalent movement will need to take place.

    Sustainability is a term that has now entered the language of industry.

     “It is a holistic concept, encompassing the very fabric of our society that stresses efficiency, rationality, practicality and technological innovation.”

    – Adam Devenney, 4th year commerce student, University of Calgary

    It can be argued that this term has been poorly and abundantly used in the wrong context. So the question is: “What distinguishes sustainable acts from tactful marketing schemes?”  The only way to have the skills to answer this question is through a fundamental understanding of energy’s impact on society, and the only way to gain this is through reliable and trusted educational resources.  Through institutions like ISEEESA, new graduates are becoming well versed in energy fundamentals and are capable of challenging industries’ status quo in the movement towards sustainability in the work force.

    The ultimate goal of producers is to maximize profit. It’s ironic that it took so long for the notion of sustainability to catch on in the industry, as it ultimately ensures long-term profitability and efficient use of resources. Safety caught on because people’s lives were at risk; when it comes to sustainability, the life of the company is at risk. With continuous education on the effect globalization has on our natural resources, we are more able to understand the necessity of long-term planning, and with that, sustainability will transition from a discussion to reality.

    Safety, Sustainability, and Students

    Though they can be viewed as separate concepts, the culmination of safety and sustainability is an integral union that can be directly attributed to a company’s success. As students look to establish a presence within the professional world, the bilateral relationship between safety and sustainability will make an impact on their careers. Upon closer examination, the ties are hard to discount.

    A company that ensures a safe work environment demonstrates its commitment to employees. When an employee’s safety is put first, they feel valued, secure, and proud to represent their organization. This sentiment is the foundation of the partnerships that compose a strong workforce. Building a community of loyal workers supports efficiency and longevity in operations, and in turn, continuous and reliable production. This is a direct benefit to employees, investors, and the organization itself.

    Sustainability in operations is an increasingly important criterion that the millennial generation looks for in a work environment. There is a growing concern from recent graduates to work for a company whose values and business ethics mirror that of their own. Increasing media scrutiny regarding the proper use of resources as well as the environmental impacts of operations will largely influence the next generation of professionals. Businesses that can responsibly use raw materials, while simultaneously developing its operations in a manner that ensures long-term production, adhere to the ideals of new graduates looking for job security.


    Safety and sustainability practices require on-going improvements to meet the new challenges with which industry is constantly faced. There is no catchall solution that addresses either concept, and so progress remains difficult to quantify. This poses a problem in the assessment of corporate responsibility in each area, things that graduating students consider when entering the workforce. A realistic measure of the advancement of these concepts may lie in how quickly a company responds to the events or scenarios that are deemed “unsafe” or “unsustainable.” Furthermore, the frequency that an organization implements strategies to improve their existing safety or sustainability infrastructure may also serve as an appropriate measure. Evolution in these fields is extremely important to survival—not only for the environment and workers, but also in the survival of the business itself. By constantly improving, companies will draw in passionate, driven students, ultimately contributing to longevity and success.

    Safety Timeline

    The timeline below shows examples of “best practices” and quantitative results reported by the respective organizations. What resulted was an enhanced development of more integrated health, safety, and productivity management programs for adoption by employers.

    1917 – The Quebec Bridge is completed, after two collapses and 89 work-related deaths.

    1925 – Iron Rings are presented to graduating Canadian engineers, to remind them of the obligations, ethics, and higher-level responsibilities associated with the profession.

    1982 – The semi-submersible mobile offshore drilling unit, the Ocean Ranger, sinks east of Newfoundland. Of the 84 crew members aboard, there are no survivors. This event contributes to the establishment of higher standards in rig operations and worker training.

    1988 – A world-class training facility is officially opened near Edmonton, AB, operated by the Petroleum Industry Training Services (PITS), in conjunction with the Canadian Association of Oil well Drilling Contractors (CAODC), and the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB).

    1997 – Canadian Petroleum Safety Council is launched.

    1998 – In order to ensure safe practices, a driller’s upgrade program, for senior crewmembers of both drilling and well-servicing contractors, is established by CAODC.

    1999 – Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers launches its Environment, Health and Safety Stewardship Program to encourage member companies to achieve continuous improvement in the industry’s environment, health, and safety performance.

    2011 – An explosion at the CNRL Horizon oil sands site near the Fort McKay First Nation in northern Alberta injures four employees.

    2012 – Xstrata Zinc’s Brunswick Mine was awarded the prestigious John T. Ryan award for the safest metal mine in Canada.

    2012 – Enfron hosts Canada’s premiere oil and gas safety conference and tradeshow, focusing on continuing improvements in safety within the oil and gas industry.

    Sustainability Timeline

    Jan 1969 – Santa Barbara oil spill creates the environmental movement.

    1970 – First Earth Day held as a national teach-in on the environment. An estimated 20 million people participated in peaceful demonstrations across the U.S.

    1987 – The United Nation’s World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission) publishes “Our Common Future.”

    1980s – 3D seismic surveying is introduced in hydrocarbon exploration. This and other low-impact technologies reduce industry impacts on the land.

    1989 – Exxon Valdez oil tanker dumps 11 million gallons of oil off the coast of Alaska.

    1995 – CAODC and Natural Resources Canada sign a memorandum to work within the Voluntary Challenge and Registry framework. A study of the replacement of drilling rig engines is undertaken to evaluate the possible efficiency gains and resultant emission reductions.

    2002 – In December, the federal government ratifies the Kyoto Protocol, despite strong opposition from companies in the oil and gas industry.


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