A sneak peek at the safety culture of the pipeline industry

Pipeline safety. It’s a topic you hear about a lot these days. And that’s because, for the pipeline industry, it’s a top priority. A strong safety culture is in place to protect the public, employees and the environment. It’s the materials used to build the pipelines themselves; it’s the constant monitoring and high-tech inspection tools used to protect pipeline integrity; it’s the thorough regulation of the industry. And it’s a competent, well-trained and safety-minded employee base.

For the pipeline industry, a safety culture is mandatory

CEPA’s member companies and their contractors place a high importance on ensuring that every single worker makes it home at the end of the day. This is a vision that aligns with safety culture expectations set out by the National Energy Board (NEB). In a speech at the 2012 International Pipeline Conference, NEB Chair and CEO, Gaétan Caron, described the characteristics of this safety culture.

“A strong safety culture is one in which everyone is aware of the known hazards while remaining vigilant to new threats. One in which every employee feels empowered and rewarded for making safe decisions. A culture where employees feel encouraged to report safety hazards, including instances where they have committed an error and introduced a threat themselves,” he said.

“One in which the most junior operator would not hesitate to shut a pipeline down if there were concerns without fear of disciplinary action. One where the boss does not have to be present for someone to do the right thing. And one where the organization is continually learning from its own and others’ experiences with the goal of advancing safety and environmental protection.  This is what a true culture of safety looks like and this is what the National Energy Board expects of its regulated companies.”

What the pipeline safety culture looks like

There are a number of factors that CEPA member companies focus on in order to support their commitment to a strong safety culture, including:

  • Leadership
  • Training
  • Site supervision
  • Safe work sites
  • Measurement to support continuous improvement

Here’s a quick look at what each entails:


A focus on safety must come from the top down to have a true and lasting impact. Those in leadership roles have a responsibility to communicate the importance of safety to all employees and contractors and ensure that policies, practices and procedures are consistently and universally implemented.

A strong safety culture comes from making sure that everyone, from the company president to the junior construction workers, are aware of work hazards and understand their responsibility in ensuring their own safety and that of others.


Qualified and knowledgeable workers are safe workers. All employees and contractors are assessed according to industry certification standards before they are hired. CEPA member companies also require workers to complete company-specific training on their protocols, procedures and standards.

Additionally, CEPA supports Enform, a non-profit organization that provides training, guidance, certification tools and information on industry recommended practices to help companies improve their safety practices. According to Enform’s President and CEO, Cameron MacGillivray, the organization serves as the safety association for the upstream oil and gas industry, working with both the pipeline industry and regulators on issues relating to safety.

“Enform works with the pipeline industry to deliver safety programs, some of which are recognized both as standards in Canada as well as internationally. In addition Enform has worked with the pipeline sector to develop custom training programs to address unique needs. Together these efforts serve to promote and foster the industry’s strong safety culture,” he said.

“And while we work with industry to continuously improve its safety performance, we also maintain an open dialogue with the regulators and this allows us to facilitate important discussions about safety and industry’s best practices.”

In the end, all of this underscores one thing: a commitment to safety, that extends to those directly involved with pipelines, and beyond.

“We strive for the day when there are no work-related incidents or injuries in the Canadian oil and gas industry. When workers at all levels have the knowledge, certification and training to perform their jobs safely, they’re empowered to make decisions that put safety first. Safety is our priority and together with industry partners we are committed to ensuring worker safety. This also serves as a promise to Canadians that the industry is committed to operating in a manner that protects workers, the environment and the public.”

Site supervision

A strong commitment to safety starts with strong leadership. CEPA member companies make it a priority to have competent site supervisors on all work sites. These qualified individuals ensure that regulatory requirements and company policies are implemented and that all workers follow safe practices as a part of their everyday work.

Safe work sites

CEPA members are committed to making all work sites meet or exceed worker safety regulatory requirements and industry recommended practices. This goal is met by placing a high priority on:

  • Fully functional and well-maintained equipment
  • Emergency equipment and safety warnings
  • Worker personal protective equipment (PPE)

Workers are also trained, and encouraged, to refuse unsafe work.

Measurement and continuous improvement

CEPA members collect a range of indicators to measure their worker safety performance and identify areas for improvement.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 110,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2011, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.