Transport Canada announces new safety measures

Companies must implement rules for employees doing switching duties

Transport Canada announces new safety measures
Transport Canada conducts more than 30,000 inspections every year.

Transport Canada has announced new safety measures following the conclusion of an investigation into a fatal incident in 2017 conducted by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

Transport companies must now adopt new practices for employees to follow when conducting switching operations – taking railcars from one track to another – to ensure that equipment is properly secured.

Transport Canada also said it will continue revising the Railway Employee Qualification Standards Regulations to strengthen oversight requirements and address gaps related to training and experience of employees. The department will also pursue work with the railway industry and labour representatives to identify the underlying causes of uncontrolled movements that occur while switching without air (i.e., without using air brakes on individual rail cars), and develop strategies or regulatory requirements to reduce their frequency.

The announcement came after the conclusion of the investigation into the fatal accident at Canadian National Railways’ (CN) Melville Yard in Saskatchewan, which found that, on Dec. 22, 2017, a foreman died as a result of an uncontrolled movement of rail cars while performing switching operations.

“I am deeply troubled every time there is a rail incident that results in a tragic death. Our Government is continuously looking for ways to make our railway system safer,” said Marc Garneau, minister of transport. “I thank the Transportation Safety Board of Canada for its thorough work in investigating the uncontrolled movement at the Melville Yard in Saskatchewan.”

The investigation concluded that the crew’s limited experience likely contributed to a decision to switch three loaded cars at insufficient speed up an ascending grade. It also determined that there was a lack of communication between the two employees.

Last month, Transport Canada released the 2020 edition of its Emergency Response Guidebook, a significant tool to assist first responders in quickly identifying the hazards of the materials when an accident involving dangerous goods occurs.

In February, Transport Canada set new speed limits for trains carrying dangerous goods across the country.

Transport Canada conducts more than 30,000 inspections every year as part of its oversight activities to ensure that rail companies and road authorities comply with the Rail Safety Act.