Injury rate for pipeline workers down almost 50 per cent from 2008 to 2009

Total pipeline incidents up in the same period

The injury rate for pipeline workers dropped drastically from 2008 to 2009, according to a report released by the National Energy Board (NEB).

The NEB's annual Focus on Safety and Environment: A Comparative Analysis of Pipeline Performance 2000-2009 said the injury rate fell nearly 50 per cent from one injury for every 100 workers in 2008 to 0.53 injuries for every 100 federally regulated pipeline workers in 2009. This is the second year in a row the injury rate has been cut in half.

The report also said there were no fatalities on NEB-regulated pipelines in 2009, down from two fatalities in 2008. The improvement in worker safety came at a time of heavy pipeline construction. Pipeline workers at NEB-regulated facilities logged 32,567,727 hours in 2009, nearly twice the number of hours worked in 2008 and the most since 2000, said the report.

"We are pleased that the number of injuries has dropped but the level is still of concern. We can't stress enough the importance of committing to continual improvement," said NEB chair and CEO Gaétan Caron. "In order to reduce risk to the public and workers, proactive safety management and a culture of safety must be priorities for the industry.”

While worker safety improved, there were five pipeline ruptures in 2009, all on natural gas pipelines. On average, there are 1.9 ruptures on NEB-regulated pipelines every year. In four of these incidents, the ruptures were caused by metal loss or cracking and the fifth rupture happened when a pipeline company contractor struck the line. Three of the ruptures occurred on pipelines in Ontario, one happened in Alberta and one in British Columbia.

There was also an increase in the number of releases of liquid hydrocarbons from pipe bodies, rising from zero releases in 2008 to two releases in 2009, one of which involved a significant volume of product, said the report. This release occurred on private land in Saskatchewan and did not impact any water bodies in the area. The second pipe body release occurred in Ontario. In total, 1,243 m3 (7,837 barrels) of liquid hydrocarbons were released from NEB-regulated pipe bodies in 2009.

A total of 83 pipeline incidents were reported to the NEB in 2009, nearly double the 10-year average of 45.1 reported incidents per year. The NEB examines reports of these incidents to identify where improvement is needed.

In 2010, NEB staff conducted 211 compliance activities, such as inspections, audits and emergency exercises. The board also issued a proposed regulatory change to the Onshore Pipeline Regulations, 1999, in July 2011. The change is intended to clarify the board's current requirement that regulated companies follow a management system approach. The goal is to promote a systematic approach to reducing safety and environmental incidents.

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