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Fact Sheet

7 July 2008

Focus on Safety and Environment - A Comparative Analysis of Pipeline Performance 2000-2006

Most Canadians recognize that energy is essential to our daily lives. However, few of us give much thought to the vast network of pipelines that stretch for thousands of kilometres beneath our feet. These pipelines bring the energy products we need, such as natural gas, heating oil and gasoline to our homes and neighbourhoods. Without them, Canadians could not enjoy the standard of living we have become accustomed to. It is the role of the National Energy Board to promote pipeline safety, security and environmental integrity.

The National Energy Board regulates 104 companies that operate nearly 45 000 km of pipeline; that's enough pipe to wrap around the planet. In 2006, these pipelines shipped $110 billion worth of petroleum products to destinations across North America. For the most part, this happened safely, without harm to Canadians, their communities or their land. In 2006, no one was killed while working on a NEB-regulated pipeline, there were no ruptures on NEB-pipelines and while the number of liquid leaks went up, the total volume of liquid spilled into the environment was nearly 14 times lower than the six-year average. In fact, in 2006, there were only 37 reported incidents of non-compliance with NEB regulations, below the six-year average.

Worker Injury Rate Rising

At the same time, there was a steep increase in the number of men and women working on NEB-regulated pipelines who were hurt on the job. In 2006, the number of injuries jumped from 0.7 injuries for every 100 full-time workers in 2005 to 1.5 injuries for every 100 full-time workers. Furthermore, for the first time since this report was initially published in 2000, regular, full-time company employees are as likely to suffer an injury on the job as a contract worker.

Staff at the National Energy Board have identified a number of potential reasons for this jump, including:

  • High turnover rates in the red-hot pipeline industry;
  • Lack of or inadequate training;
  • Fatigue due to tight construction schedules;
  • Fatigue due to resource issues;
  • Age of worker; and
  • Level of experience.

How We Can Get Better

As the pipeline industry prepares for another busy construction season, this report points to a need for increased vigilance in ensuring that the well developed safety programs already in place are translated into fewer injuries and a safer workplace. Some of the activities undertaken by the NEB to promote safety and environmental protection include:

  • Partnering with other regulators to enhance understanding and awareness of the safety and environmental aspects of the pipeline industry;
  • Actively participating with industry in areas such as developing new standards and pipeline research;
  • Taking a leadership role in developing content for conferences such as the International Pipeline Conference and the Banff Pipeline Workshop;
  • Performing audits, investigations and inspections; and
  • Participating in initiatives such as the Canadian Common Ground Alliance designed to increase awareness and promote best practices for excavation and construction near pipelines.

One of the ways the National Energy Board promotes safety is to inspect pipelines during all stages of its life cycle, from construction, through its operational life span until it is eventually abandoned. NEB Inspection Officers, however, cannot be on-site at all times. Therefore, the National Energy Board uses a risk-based lifecycle approach to identify and focus on areas of risk or high priority. This strategy allows NEB staff to use what they already know about a company and its practices when considering whether compliance verification activities are needed and when it is needed.

The NEB uses the data from this report to analyze performance indicators. These indicators are used to identify trends within the industry and to help develop and prioritize operational compliance plans including inspections and audits. These plans help the NEB to focus its resources where they are most needed.

Pipeline Industry is a Safe Industry

While the NEB takes worker injuries very seriously, the Board is proud of its safety record. According to Human Resources and Social Development Canada statistics, the pipeline sector has one of the best safety records of all federally regulated industries. In 2005, broadcasters and postal contractors were more likely to get hurt on the job then pipeline workers. In fact, only banking had a lower incidence of injuries on the job in 2005.

Pipelines are the safest method of moving energy across the country. While the National Energy Board plans to work with the companies it regulates to improve worker safety, this report, Focus on Safety and Environment: A Comparative Analysis of Pipeline Performance 2000-2006, shows that Canadian pipelines work well and work safely.

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