Progress slow in making Canadian transportation safe

by Array

GATINEAU, Quebec: Some transportation sectors are doing a better job of responding to recommendations following accident investigations than others.

It’s the job of the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) to review transportation-related incidents, mishaps, collisions and crashes, and make recommendations as to how to avoid similar occurrences in the future. Every year the TSB goes back and reviews just how well the transportation industries responded to its recommendations.

“When investigations uncover serious safety deficiencies, we make recommendations so that future accidents may be avoided,” explained Wendy Tadros, chair of the TSB. “That is why we look to regulators and industry for the effective and timely implementation of our recommendations.”

In this year’s annual review, the TSB found the rail industry to have implemented the most changes based on the TSB’s recommendations. With the response to four recommendations earning the TSB’s highest rating of “fully satisfactory”, the agency concluded there was “positive movment” in the rail industry.

Among the four highest ratings, was the industry’s response to the 2001 ruling where “the Board recommended that Transport Canada (TC) and the Railway Association of Canada ensure that maintenance standards and practices address the level of risks in heavy tonnage on ‘other than main tracks’. To ensure railway personnel consistently and accurately assess track conditions, TC approved the new Track Safety Rules, which come into effect on May 25, 2012.”

More positive recognition was given to the industry’s new practice regarding wheel tracking. Previously no tracking was done of wheel sets, but “due to incomplete product recalls, the Board recommended that TC ensure that railways adopt procedures and technologies to track all wheel sets. Railways have since begun using ID tags and an electronic system to track wheel sets, which will substantially reduce or eliminate the underlying safety deficiency.”

One area that still needs attention, however, is safety at railway crossings. “Recommendations targeting the adoption of the Grade Crossing Regulations, signage for low ground clearance vehicles, vehicle collision defenses in the high speed corridor and emergency contact signage remain unresolved”.

Also unresolved is the issue of placing voice recorders in locomotives, although Transport Canada has undertaken a review of the situation. Without the devices, the TSB is afraid it is missing critical data that could be used in accident investigations.

The marine sector followed the rail sector in terms of rankings, achieving a “slightly improved” evaluation. The TSB gave two “fully satisfactory” marks to industry for changes to passenger ferry safety, there are still eleven recommendations outstanding against small passenger and small fishing vessel issues.

The air industry had the weakest showing. It achieved only one fully satisfactory assessment and had 32 recommendations outstanding.

“Every year we take stock of whether improvements have been made and what still needs to be done to address important safety issues,” added Tadros. “This year there is some progress, and that is encouraging, but in many areas we still see safety risks, risks that will persist until concrete action is taken.”