PROCESSWEST Magazine Online

Making safety a priority

Don Horne   

News IIoT IoT ISA Calgary


Accidents, injuries, and death.

That is the unholy trinity of an unsafe workplace, and in many cases, they can be prevented by putting into place guidelines on how to work safely, and by ensuring equipment is correct for the job that is being done.

A very public example of an accident that turned fatal happened at the Suncor Base plant on January 6 of this year when a heavy haul truck rear-ended a second truck at the mine.

Worse, it was the fourth such fatality at the facility since late 2020.


It was time to step up and take action, and in a rare example that bucks the corporate culture of passing the buck, Suncor CEO Mark Little made no bones on what needed to be done, and who needed to lead the charge.

“As CEO, the accountability for safety and operational excellence is with me, period,” Little stated matter-of-factly on a quarterly conference call with analysts. “I have a comprehensive plan endorsed by our board and we’re executing this plan to address these concerns.”

Suncor Energy Inc. will adopt mining safety technology for the first time in the oil sands, as part of a series of efforts to improve safety at its sites.

The company is implementing collision avoidance and fatigue management technology across all its mobile mine equipment within the next 18 to 24 months; a technology that is used globally in mining, but currently not in use in the oil sands.

“So, we’ll be the first oil sands company to universally use this all across the mines,” said Little.

Kudos to Mr. Little for moving forward on what has been very much overdue. No more need die on the job when available technology could have prevented.

Speaking of safety, companies are looking into the online realm to beef up their protection, as malware and ransomware attacks ramp up.

This month’s ISA Calgary Show is a showcase for high-tech, looking at automation, IIoT technologies, SCADA telemetry and remote analytics.

But one major topic that is drawing increased interest – a topic that wouldn’t have registered a blip on the radar 20 years ago – is a panel discussion on the benefits of industrial cyber security.

It follows up on an opening keynote breakfast talk next week by Chris Mathers, a crime, terrorism and cyber-security consultant based out of Toronto, Ont.

The former RCMP man not only raises awareness but a few eyebrows, as he will share stories of malware and ransomware attacks that have left companies at the mercy of these Internet criminals.

The biggest takeaway? You aren’t too big or too small to be a victim.

The panel discussion that follows: Challenges and Benefits of Automating Industrial Cybersecurity, deals with a number of topics, like the importance of IoT and IIoT and how to mitigate attacks between cyberspace and physical worlds, and how companies should deal with legacy systems and their incompatibility with IoT/IIoT.

Forgive me, after a few hours of being immersed in high-tech lingo, I sometimes forget that these acronyms are still a bit foreign to many. The IoT (Internet of Things) describes physical objects with sensors, processing ability, software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices and systems over the Internet or other communications networks, whereas the IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) refers to interconnected sensors, instruments, and other devices networked together with computers’ industrial applications, including manufacturing and energy management.

But it is the human factor that can create a weakness in a company’s cyber security that many don’t take into consideration – especially now, given the increasing dependence on contract workers, due to the skill gap shortage that exists across North America.

The biggest issue is that companies now use multiple vendors, which can lead to a lack of widespread compliance to industry-adopted standards that can introduce risks and challenges to the security of many products.

Given that Russia has notoriously been identified as being behind several cyber-attacks in the West, the war in Ukraine has ramped up such malware attacks against North American companies and infrastructure.

Whether it is out in the field or online, we all need to be safe.

Don Horne, PROCESSWest


Stories continue below

Print this page

Related Stories