Canadian Natural Resources has been fined $10,000 by Alberta’s professional engineering society — the maximum allowed — following an investigation into an accident at an oilsands site that killed two and injured five.
The Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of Alberta said Wednesday that the company has admitted to unprofessional conduct on how it dealt with contract engineers.
On April 24, 2007, workers were building a 20-metre high oil tank at the Horizon oilsands project north of Fort McMurray, Alta. when cables holding up a roof support structure snapped due to high winds.
The falling steel structure broke apart, with steel debris striking an electrical consultant, killing him. A scaffolder was crushed and died on the way to the hospital.
Two other workers were seriously injured and three others suffered minor injuries.
The engineering association found that the steel cables supporting the roofing structure were inadequate and did not meet regulations, and that the person who designed the construction procedures was not a professional engineer in Alberta.
In addition to the fine, the association said Canadian Natural Resources (TSX:CNQ) will have to pay, up to a maximum of $150,000, to help develop a new practice standard on outsourcing engineering and geoscience work in the province.
Canadian Natural Resources said in a statement that it is looking forward to developing the new standards and that a senior member of its leadership team will actively participate and work together with the association on the initiative.
The company also said that it had changed its safety practices following the tragedy and now requires contracting companies to provide evidence of qualifications before engineering work is done.
“We take every incident seriously,” said company spokeswoman Julie Woo in an email. “Following this incident, CNRL took steps to advance our processes to ensure health and safety standards are consistently met by all contractors.”
Last February, Alberta Occupational Health and Safety released the results of its investigation into the accident and concluded that the company did not do enough to ensure that one of its contractors had construction plans certified by a professional engineer.
Sinopec Shanghai Engineering Co., the Chinese engineering firm that Canadian Natural Resources contracted out to, pled guilty in 2012 to three workplace safety charges, while 29 charges against Canadian Natural Resources were stayed.
Engineering association spokeswoman Gisela Hippolt-Squair said the association is reviewing provincial legislation for the first time in 30 years and plans to recommend increasing the maximum fine for permit holders to $500,000 per violation.