CN Worker Death Caused by Lack of Safety Measures
On September 26, 2012, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada issued this news release and this investigation report on the work-related death of a CN employee. Inappropriate use of safety watch protection was considered the primary factor in the accident.
The accident occurred July 14, 2011, near Durham Junction, Ontario, when 2 workers were repairing a section of the Kingston Subdivision track. The crew of 2 had elected to proceed with the repair work despite there not being enough employees to have one person dedicated to safety watch and not having the minimum required sight line to appropriately apply the safety watch procedure. The minimum required sight line at the accident location was 2,200 feet, whereas the actual sight line was less than 800 feet. Unfortunately, one of the workers was hit and killed by a VIA Rail train travelling on a track next to the track the workers were repairing. The VIA crew had sounded the train’s bell and horn and made an emergency brake application after the train rounded a curve in the track and the crew spotted the 2 CN employees ahead.
The TSB report points out shortcomings in a number of areas. “At CN, at the time of this occurrence, there was no job aid for the safety watch procedure. In addition, many employees were unsure of where the instructions could be found in their training materials.” The report suggests there is a reluctance by CN employees “to report near-miss events”, which results in an “increased risk that others will not have the opportunity to learn and avoid a similar incident.”
As a result of the accident, CN was directed by Human Resources and Skills Canada to address numerous contraventions of safety procedures.
As the TSB has done numerous times in the past, this latest TSB report points out a shortcoming with the manner in which Transport Canada implements its overall responsibility for rail safety by saying, “In Canada, the safety watch procedure was not mandated by regulation. Other jurisdictions (i.e., the US) have taken the initiative to regulate similar methods of track protection. Transport Canada does not specifically oversee employee compliance with procedures in the railway General Engineering Instructions and therefore did not monitor the safety watch procedure.” Transport Canada has been criticized many times in the past, including by the Canada Safety Council, for not adequately exercising its responsibility for overseeing rail safety in Canada. The following quote from the latest TSB report reveals the sad extent to which Transport Canada has no interest in dealing out punitive measures to rail companies, like Canadian National Railway, that do not practice adequate safety procedures: “In the longer term, Transport Canada is considering the possibility of encouraging (bolded for emphasis) the railway to develop new rules and/or amend older ones to incorporate these company instructions into a more formal regulatory framework.”
With respect to minimum required sight lines, Railroaded has contacted Transport Canada, including the Minister of Transport, numerous times pointing out the inadequate sight lines at a rail yard built in 2010 and joint ventured by Cando Contracting Ltd., CN and Imperial Oil Ltd. The rail yard and associated siding were built right in an 18 to 20 degree curve in the CN Camrose Sub-Division Mainline in southwest Strathcona County near Edmonton. There is a switch between the rail yard and the mainline north of the curve and another switch south of the curve. The pronounced curve in the mainline track affords very short sight lines at both switches. Up to 225 oil tank cars (with flammable contents) are stored in the rail yard and tank cars are moved in and out of the yard daily. For these reasons, Railroaded has pointed out to Transport Canada that this situation is an accident waiting to happen. To date, Transport Canada has not acknowledged this problem nor have they taken any action.