Second Worker Dies After Explosion in Canada’s Oilsands As Safety Fears Mount
Dave Williams is the seventh person to die on the job in Alberta’s oil and gas industry in the last five years.
Advocates worry that, in an industry being ravaged by layoffs, the culture of “whatever it takes” is putting lives at risk.
Williams, a 30-year-old Nova Scotian, succumbed to his injuries Monday in an Edmonton hospital. His death follows that of another oilsands worker, 52-year-old Drew Foster, who was killed in the same January 15 explosion at Nexen’s Long Lake facility near Fort McMurray.
The two men were changing valves on a compressor as part of regular maintenance when the explosion happened. The incident, which Nexen Energy CEO Fang Zhi called the company’s “worst nightmare,” is raising new questions about workplace safety in the oilsands.
Severely burned in the blast, Williams was rushed to the burn unit at an Edmonton hospital. His cousin told the Cape Breton Post he had third degree burns and was in an induced coma. On January 17, the Post reported that his immediate family was at his side.
On Tuesday, Nexen confirmed his death in a news release, expressing “deepest condolences to the impacted families.”
Since 2011, at least seven workers in Alberta’s oil and gas industry, including Williams and Foster, have died from workplace incidents.
Christine Wronko, a spokesperson for the province of Alberta, told VICE News that between 2012 and 2014, there were four workplace deaths in the Alberta oilsands. The final number may be higher, as the province has not yet compiled the numbers for 2015.
According to the National Energy Board (NEB), which is in charge of pipelines that cross provincial boundaries, there was one additional death, between 2008 and 2015, of an employee at an Alberta pipeline company.
That person died in April, 2011 at a Nova Gas Transmission pipeline in Grande Prairie, Alberta. According to a report supplied to VICE News by the NEB, the unnamed employee was working for a contractor and left the job site in a company truck. He drove onto the highway and stopped to clean his boots. A second truck didn’t see him and backed into him.
Nova Gas is owned by TransCanada, the company hoping to build the controversial Energy East pipeline.
And if you include Alberta’s mining and petroleum development sector, another 23 people died from workplace incidents in that industry between 2012 and 2014, according to the provincial regulator.