LOCATION: Montreal, Quebec
ISSUE: Employee fatality while conducting switching activities at a Canadian National rail yard in Montreal.
DATE: January 6, 2021
- Rail safety is my top priority. Consistent with this priority, Transport Canada is committed to protecting all Canadians who live and work along rail lines by putting in place the necessary measures to reduce the risk of serious accidents.
- Transport Canada is aware of the tragic accident involving an employee conducting switching operations at a Canadian National rail yard in Montreal. The Department is conducting an occupational health and safety investigation into the causes of this accident.
- Transport Canada has recently taken steps to address safety issues involving switching operations. Specifically, on September 30, 2020, a Ministerial Order was issued to railway companies to mitigate safety risks when employees conduct switching operations.
- Going forward, Transport Canada will continue taking regulatory action to improve rail safety. This includes, for example, consultations on amendments to the Employee Training and Qualification Regulations, which will be launched in February 2021.
- Transport Canada is taking action to improve the safety of Canadians who live and work along rail lines. For example, the department conducts approximately 33,000 rail safety oversight activities each year, including inspections and audits.
On January 6, 2021, a Canadian National Railway conductor suffered fatal injuries while conducting switching activities in a rail yard in Montreal.
Preliminary information indicates that the employee was riding the lead car in a group of approximately 27 empty hopper cars. As the movement was slowing down, the employee was giving a count of the cars to the locomotive engineer (an indication of distance remaining to coming to a full stop). Workplace parties investigated when the employee failed to respond to communication. The employee was found deceased.
Transport Canada is reaching out to the Transportation Safety Board to determine whether the organization will investigate. In the event that the Transportation Safety Board chooses to investigate, the Department will assign a Ministerial Observer.
Investigation under the Canada Labour Code
Transport Canada has deployed two Rail Safety Inspectors who are Officials Designated by the Minister of Labour to investigate this fatality.
Transport Canada is responsible for the administration and enforcement of Part II of the Canada Labour Code and its pursuant regulations by the Minister of Labour for employees working on board trains. On behalf of Employment and Social Development Canada, the Department has a statutory requirement to conduct occupational health and safety investigations into workplace accidents that have resulted in the death of employees working on board trains.
The primary purpose of this investigation is to understand the circumstances surrounding the occurrence so that a recurrence can be prevented. In addition, the investigation determines if violations to Part II of the Canada Labour Code took place, and what compliance activities, if any, should be taken.
Ministerial Order on Switching
On September 30, 2020, the Minister of Transport issued a Ministerial Order, requiring railway companies to address safety risks associated with railway employees conducting switching operations. This measure was taken in follow-up to the tragic incident involving a foreman in Melville, Saskatchewan, which involved an uncontrolled movement of rail cars while performing switching operations.
Employee Training and Qualification Regulations
Transport Canada continues to improve its regulatory regime for railway employee qualification and training regime. For example, in 2019, the Department published the Guideline for Remote Control Locomotive Operation. The guideline, which is available on the department’s website, makes recommendations in the area of training and qualification for employees involved in remote control locomotive operations, which is primarily used to facilitate switching operations.
In addition, Transport Canada reviewed Transportation Safety Board data on rail occurrences to better understand the role that the lack of training played in incidents and accidents as well as reviewing the regulatory regimes in the United States, Australia and European Union on employee training.
Building on this review, Transport Canada will begin consultations on amendments to the Employee Training and Qualification Regulations. These consultations will be launched in February 2021.