CALGARY – Suncor Energy Inc. is bringing in mandatory wildlife safety training for its oil sands workers in northern Alberta after an employee was killed by a bear.
Lorna Weafer was attacked by a black bear in May while working at the company’s base camp north of Fort McMurray.
Other workers who were with the 36-year-old tried to scare off the animal with air horns, but the noise had no effect.
“I think that was the real wake up call for people working in industry,” said Kim Tichener, owner of Bear Safety & More. She has offered wildlife safety training for nearly a decade.
“If you work in bear country you have to have bear safety training, have bear spray accessible and have the tools to keep bears out of facilities,” Tichener said.
Suncor spokeswoman Sneh Seetal says the company reviewed its training practices following the woman’s death.
Wildlife training will be mandatory for all workers and contract employees in the Wood Buffalo region starting March 31.
The level of training will vary, depending on where the employees work and what type of work they do.
“We believe a broader spectrum of employees need to have that basic awareness training,” Seetal said Tuesday.
“The training provides the knowledge on how to prevent wildlife encounters and how to respond to a wildlife encounter.”
In 2011, wildlife officers killed 145 black bears near the oilsands.
Titchener says lone male black bears have a higher rate of predatory behaviour.
“I show up on site and I get guys that say ‘Oh, it’s just black bear’. You can’t believe the number of times I’ve heard that,” she said.
“From the other spectrum, (there are) that people are terrified. They’re from other parts of Canada, they’re from other countries where they have no exposure to bears at all.”
Seetal said Suncor is also reminding employees to be diligent about reporting any wildlife encounters to its environmental affairs hotline so the company can notify other employees.
By Tracy Nagai and Mia Sosiak Global News