The TSB Watchlist: A “blueprint for change” to improve Canada’s transportation system

ISSN 2369-873X

4 December 2014
Posted by: Kathy Fox

Canada has one of the safest transportation systems in the world. It’s a point of pride. Our vast network of waterways, pipelines, railways and airports help move people and goods from coast to coast to coast – every single day.

At the TSB, our job is to investigate accidents to identify and communicate safety deficiencies so that they can be addressed. This includes following-up and highlighting persistent risks in the transportation system which have not yet been fully addressed, which is exactly the point of our safety Watchlist. By identifying the transportation safety issues that pose the greatest risk to Canadians, we’re hoping to focus the attention of industry and regulators alike, so they work together to make the improvements that need to happen.

Four years ago, when we introduced our first edition of the Watchlist, we envisioned it as a “blueprint for change,” and that’s exactly what happened. By 2012, we’d seen such progress that it was time for an update. Old issues were removed, and new issues that had risen to prominence were added.

This year, we’re at it again and, once more, the Watchlist has evolved as our accident investigations uncover trends. In the wake of recent derailments in Quebec, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan, we’ve added one new issue: the transportation of flammable liquids by rail. We’ve also expanded several others, including safety management and oversight, approach-and-landing accidents at Canada’s airports, and the risk of collisions at rail crossings. Because not enough progress has been made on four other Watchlist issues, these have remained unchanged from our 2012 edition. These include the risk of collisions on runways, following railway signal indications, loss of life on fishing vessels, and on-board video and voice recorders for Canadian locomotives.

Finally, thanks to legislation requiring new technology in certain types of aircraft, we’ve seen sufficient reduction in risk to remove one longstanding Watchlist issue: collisions with land and water. That progress is encouraging, but we don’t stop there. Advancing transportation safety is our mandate, our raison d’être, and that means continuing to push for change. For each of these subjects, we want to see the risks eliminated or substantially reduced. And while it’s true that in some cases progress has been made (or is being contemplated via proposed regulations), what’s been done so far simply isn’t enough.

Change is often a slow and difficult process. The first step came on November 26, with a news conference announcing the new Watchlist. Then, over the coming months, I, along with my fellow Board Members and TSB employees, will take every opportunity to meet with stakeholders. We’ll remind them of what’s needed, and then we’ll hold them to account—not just for what they do, but for what they say they’ll do. We’ll also report publicly, so that Canadians can rest assured we’re doing everything we can. Where progress has been made and risks have been mitigated, we will say so. But where not enough has been done, you can expect us to be very clear about that as well.

Below you can find a brief outline of each of the issues on this year’s Watchlist.

Multi-modal

Marine

Rail

Air

The following issue was removed from the previous Watchlist:

Air

  • Collisions with land and water
Image of Kathy Fox

Kathy Fox is the TSB Chair and has more than four decades of aviation experience. She is a member of the Quebec Air and Space Hall of Fame, and was awarded the prestigious David Charles Abramson Memorial Flight Instructor Safety Award for her exceptional leadership and devotion to the advancement of Canadian aviation safety. Kathy is also pretty good with a paddle, and is a veteran of numerous expeditions to Canada’s Far North.

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