Using Process Safety Management tools to identify and assess tailings hazards


Ms Julie Zettl, Mrs Kathleen Elizabeth Baker, Dr Renato Macciotta, Dr Lianne Lefsrud, Dr Michael Hendry

Oil sands tailings may not be the typical case study that comes to mind when thinking of Process Safety Management, but there are many aspects of tailings operations that could benefit from the use of these principles to identify and manage hazards. Much work has been focused on the safety and performance of tailings storage and transportation facilities, which has led to increasing safety against catastrophic failures and uncontrolled releases. However, despite this good work, tragic tailings related fatality incidents persist due to loss of containment events near tailings storage and transport facilities. These fatalities illustrate the need for improving hazard identification and management in the vicinity of these facilities. This research uses Process Safety Management tools like Root Cause Analysis, Event Trees and Bow Ties to identify the hazards associated with oil sands tailings operations. These tools were used to analyze hazard inventories from three sources: oil sands tailings safety experts, employees and company incident data. The results were compared to determine common themes, hazards and gaps in controls. Findings from this research will allow for enhancements to the current safety management systems, the development of prioritized action lists and will ideally enhance industry standards.