Learning from the past: Transmission pipeline industry shares incidents and lessons learned to continuously improve

CEPA members are committed to continuous improvement. That means they are always striving to get better – better at delivering oil and gas safely; better at preventing spills; and better at preparing for, and responding to, an incident should one occur.

That’s why Canada’s transmission pipeline operators recently came together to share ideas and lessons learned around pipeline spills and ruptures at the CEPA Incident Forum.

This event was the first of its kind for CEPA. While companies have always completed comprehensive investigations to identify the cause(s) of an incident, and consider how their processes, procedures and management systems can be improved to ensure the incident is not repeated, it has not always been a collaborative effort. But in this forum, companies shared openly about what caused the incident, how the organization responded, and most importantly, how they have changed as a result of the incident.

A couple of interesting observations from the day:

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) is not focusing on pipelines – and that’s a good thing!

The TSB is responsible for advancing transportation safety in marine, pipeline, rail and air. This includes investigating major incidents involving these modes of transportation in Canada. The TSB has a watch list of industries and potential issues that need to be addressed to make Canada’s transportation system even safer – the ten issues that are on the list are all identified as areas that require a concerted effort from the regulator and industry stakeholders in order to improve safety.

There are no pipeline issues on that list.

We have already learned from experience – and will continue to improve

If you look back at the recent history of pipelines in Canada, there was a cluster of major incidents between 2007 and 2012. Since then there have been very few significant incidents in Canada. And here are two of the reasons why:

First, each company that had an incident looked back through their investigation and determined how they could improve to prevent it from happening again. Individually, each of those companies took the necessary actions to improve their safety and environmental protection standards. Yes, companies were doing this before 2012, and had always been looking to improve their operations to make them safer, but this internal reflection led to a realization that members of the transmission pipeline industry could learn from each other.

Which leads us to the second point.

CEPA members came together in 2013 and acknowledged that they do not and should not compete on safety. As a result, they agreed to work together. Through CEPA Integrity First® member companies have made a commitment to share lessons learned and continuously improve. Industry has since taken significant strides, including the Incident Forum, in working towards its goal of zero pipeline incidents.

As part of industry’s commitment to continuous improvement, the CEPA Incident Forum will take place every two years, and bring our industry together to share lessons learned so that we can continue to safely and responsibly deliver the energy that Canadians use every day.