News release

Inadequate safety training led to 2012 accident that injured three railway track maintainers in Edmonton

Edmonton, Alberta, 24 April 2014 – In its investigation report (R12E0182) made public today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) identified a lack of training, including training on the use of safety watch protection, as one of the causal factors that led to an accident in which 3 track maintainers were struck by a train. Two sustained serious injuries.

On the morning of 26 December 2012, an eastbound Canadian National (CN) freight train struck 3 employees of A&B Rail Services Limited (A&B), a track maintenance company hired by CN, near a main track switch in the Edmonton area. The 3 were engaged in clearing snow and ice from track at the switch; 2 were wearing portable gas-powered backpack blowers at the time. When the train crew noticed the maintainers working on the main track, they sounded the train's bell and horn, but there was no noticeable reaction from the maintainers. The train crew then applied emergency brakes, but could not stop the train in time to avoid the workers.

The investigation found that noise from the backpack blowers prevented the 3 maintainers from hearing the approaching train’s bell and horn, and with their backs turned to the oncoming train, they did not see it approaching. In addition, the investigation found that, although CN had conducted a job briefing with the A&B supervisor, the track maintainers who were to perform the work were not present. Despite the railway’s obligation to ensure that others who are granted access to railway property are properly trained and supervised, and despite A&B’s obligation to protect the health and safety of its employees by ensuring that they are properly trained, the A&B track employees had not been fully trained in safe railway working practices, were not being directly supervised, and had not been made aware of changes to safety watch procedures.

On 8 January 2013, the TSB sent a rail safety advisory (RSA) to Transport Canada (TC). The RSA suggested that TC may wish to review the manner in which railways implement, monitor, and conduct training in safety watch protection to ensure that instructions are properly applied and that adequate protection is provided to all track maintenance personnel, including contracted employees. TC responded that it is working with the Railway Association of Canada to add a rule to the Canadian Rail Operating Rules pertaining to the use of safety watch protection. This initiative may bring the application of safety watch protection under regulatory oversight.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation transportation occurrences. Its sole aim is the advancement of transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

For more information, contact:
Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-8053