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Syncrude to pay $390K penalty, pleads guilty to safety violation, after oilsands worker death in 2021

Oilsands operator Syncrude Canada Ltd. has pleaded guilty to a safety violation in the 2021 death of a worker and has been ordered to pay a $390,000 penalty.

Syncrude — which is an oilsands joint venture majority-owned by Suncor Energy Inc. — pleaded guilty on April 4 in a Fort McMurray court to one charge under Alberta’s Occupational Health and Safety Act, for failing to ensure the health and safety of a worker.

The Syncrude employee was killed on June 6, 2021, at the Aurora mine site 70 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.  

The worker was operating an excavator to build a berm when the bank slumped into the fresh water, Occupational Health and Safety said in a statement released Monday. The cab of the excavator was fully submerged and the worker drowned.

Syncrude pleaded guilty for failure to ensure the health and safety of a worker by permitting the worker to operate a John Deere excavator on a ramp with an over-steepened slope, OHS said.

Additional charges withdrawn

Four other charges under OHS legislation were withdrawn.

Alberta’s OHS legislation allows the court to apply what is known as a “creative sentence option,” where funds that would otherwise be paid as fines are diverted to organizations that promote occupational health and safety. 

In this case, Syncrude will pay $390,000 to the David and Joan Lynch School of Engineering Safety and Risk Management, the UAlberta Geotechnical Centre and the Alberta Municipal Health and Safety Association for the purpose of developing an employer best-practice guide and field-ready mobile app for trenching, excavation and adjacent work.

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