Bear-safety training to be mandatory for oilsands workers

Suncor Energy is ordering all its employees take bear safety training following the death of an employee earlier this year.

Suncor orders training after death of employee Lorna Weafer

Suncor Energy will make bear safety training mandatory for all its workers after the fatal mauling of an employee earlier this year. (CBC)

Suncor Energy is ordering all its employees to take bear-safety training following the death of a worker earlier this year.

"It does save lives," said Kim Titchener, of Bear Safety and More, the company providing the training. "I'm finding that oilsands workers don't feel very safe at work and would like to have more tools, more training ... to be safer."

Oilsands companies are looking to upgrade their safety standards after Suncor employee Lorna Weafer was killed in May by a black bear near Suncor's base plant 25 kilometres north of Fort McMurray.

Weafer, 36, was coming out of a washroom when she was attacked by the bear. Her co-workers failed to scare the animal and didn't have bear spray to deter it.

The type of training will range from a web-based course for office workers to classroom training for those working in the field, Titchener said.

Training will become mandatory by March 31, 2015 for all Suncor employees and contractors working in or visiting the Wood Buffalo region.

While other companies are working to develop stronger policies and implement training for their workers, Suncor is the first company operating in the oilsands region to make it mandatory, Titchener said.

Her training for workers will include how to avoid encounters; understanding bear behaviour; what to do in an encounter; and how to deploy bear spray, bangers and flare guns.

It will also include ways to deal with other wildlife such as cougars, wolves and coyotes.