Railway Investigation Report R12E0182

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) investigated this occurrence for the purpose of advancing transportation safety. It is not the function of the Board to assign fault or determine civil or criminal liability.

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Contractor employee injury
Canadian National Train
Q-19051-24 Mile 259.20
Wainwright Subdivision, Clover Bar, Alberta

Summary

At approximately 0909 Mountain Standard Time on 26 December 2012, Canadian National freight train Q-19051-24 was proceeding eastward from Edmonton, Alberta, to Wainwright, Alberta, when it struck 3 A&B Rail Services Limited employees at approximately Mile 259.20 of Canadian National's Wainwright Subdivision, near Clover Bar Yard. The 3 employees, who were performing snow-clearing activities near a switch, were admitted to hospital; 2 of them were seriously injured.

Ce rapport est également disponible en français.

Factual information

At approximately 0830 Footnote 1 on 26 December 2012, eastbound Canadian National (CN) freight train Q-19051-24 (train 190) departed Edmonton, Alberta, destined for Wainwright, Saskatchewan. The train was comprised of 2 locomotives and 173 loaded cars. It weighed 10 388 tons and was 11 027 feet long. Train 190 was operated by a locomotive engineer and a conductor. Both crew members were qualified for their respective positions, were familiar with the territory, and met company and regulatory fitness and rest standards.

At approximately 0909, while travelling at 27 mph on the main track of the Wainwright Subdivision through Clover Bar in Edmonton (Figure 1), train 190, with a clearFootnote 2 signal, rounded a 2° right-hand curve (Photo 1). About 1350 feet ahead, the crew noticed 3 track maintainers (a foreman and 2 track workers) working on the main track just beyond the public crossing at Mile 259.21 (Photo 2 and Figure 2). The 2 track workers were wearing portable gas-powered backpack blowers. Train 190’s bell and horn were sounded as per Rules 14(l) and 14(f)Footnote 3 of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR). In the absence of noticeable reaction from the track maintainers, the train crew initiated an emergency train brake application.

Approximately 2 seconds before the train reached the work location, the foreman, who was standing between the rails facing east and holding the safety tag linesFootnote 4 tethered to the backpack blowers, glanced behind and noticed the approaching train. While attempting to jump to the north of the track, the foreman was struck by the train, which had slowed to 25 mph. Unaware of the train’s approach, the 2 track workers who were operating the portable backpack blowers were also struck by the train. Track worker no. 1 was briefly dragged by the lead locomotive as the worker’s tag line became entangled with the locomotive. The tag line eventually broke free from the locomotive, and track worker no. 1 came to rest north of the main track. Track worker no. 2 was dragged approximately 163 feet under the right front side of the lead locomotive. All 3 track maintainers were injured.

The lead locomotive of train 190 came to a stop approximately 510 feet east of the accident location. The train crew made an emergency radio call to advise the rail traffic controller (RTC) of the accident and to request emergency medical assistance. The 3 track maintainers were transported to hospital.

The track maintainers were employed by A&B Rail Services Limited (A&B), which was under contract with CN. A&B is an independent contracting company that provides track maintenance services to railways. On 18 December 2012, A&B was contracted at CN’s Walker Yard for snow removal and emergency track-repair service. Two of the A&B employees involved in this accident had been working in Walker Yard since December 21.

Figure 1. Location of the accident (source: Railway Association of Canada, Canadian Railway Atlas)
Photo 1. Sightline looking west from the accident site (Arrow shows the approximate area where the track workers were standing.)
Photo 2. Accident site facing east, showing the track workers' approximate positioning (i.e., with their backs to the approaching train)
Figure 2. Location of workers at accident site

At 0730 (i.e., the beginning of the shift) on December 26, an A&B supervisor met with CN managers at CN’s Edmonton Yard office to discuss the day’s work. The A&B supervisor was instructed to assist the snow jet Footnote 5 with cleaning switches in the Clover Bar Yard area. No other A&B employees were in attendance at the meeting with CN. The A&B supervisor copied the work details onto an A&B job briefing Form. Outlined below are omissions and inaccuracies that were found in the form:

  • The yard mileages to work between were not included.
  • The work location, specific tracks, and specific switches were not listed.
  • The radio channel to be monitored was incorrect.
  • The designated safety watch person was not specified.
  • The location where the safety watch person was to be positioned was not specified.
  • The method of warning to be used on the approach of a train was not specified.
  • The use of gas-powered backpack snow blowers was not indicated.
  • The maximum speed of train movements was incorrect.
  • The sightline distance at the work site was incorrect.
  • The location where tools were to be cleared was not established.
  • The designation of who would clear tools was not established.
  • The signatures of all employees involved were not obtained.

The CN Managers did not review the information copied onto the job briefing form by the A&B Supervisor, nor were they required to do so.

Before the start of the track work, the track supervisor disseminated details of the work to the 3 A&B track maintainers who were to perform the work. Two of the 3 track maintainers wrote the information onto a separate A&B Job Briefing Form. It was indicated on the job briefing form that the work was to be protected by use of a safety watch procedure.Footnote 6

During the week preceding the accident, 2 of the 3 A&B track maintainers had been assigned to remove snow at 3 other CN yards in the Edmonton area. This previous work had been performed under safety watch protection, and often while using backpack blowers. The A&B track maintainers had been accompanied by an in-charge CN employee, who would usually obtain train information from the yardmaster before work proceeded on any yard tracks. A written maintenance protect authorityFootnote 7 from the yardmaster had normally been used to provide additional protection on non-main track.

At the time of the accident, there was no CN employee accompanying the A&B track maintainers, and no additional protection (e.g., maintenance protect authority) had been obtained for the snow-blowing activities at Clover Bar. The CN employees were enroute to the east end of the yard with the snow jet. The A&B track maintainers were provided with the Clover Bar evacuation map (Figure 3). As the A&B employees were not familiar with the territory, they had some difficulty locating the specific switches that they were instructed to clean. Further conversation between the A&B supervisor and CN managers determined that those switches had already been cleaned, so the A&B track maintainers were redirected to start clearing switches eastward from the nearest switch encountered until they met up with the snow jet.

The A&B track maintainers inadvertently started at a main track switchFootnote 8 (VC60W) that was listed on the Clover Bar Yard map but had not been stenciled with a number in the field. The track maintainers were unaware that they were working on the main track; they believed they were working on a yard track. Their job briefing indicated that the maximum speed of train movements was 25 mph. The maximum speed on tracks other than the main track on CN (unless otherwise specified) is 15 mph.

While the track maintainers were clearing snow at switch VC60W, the A&B supervisor returned to a truck to follow up on other operational activities. The truck had a radio, and one of the track maintainers was wearing a radio and speaker affixed to one coat shoulder. Consequently, the track maintainers believed that the A&B supervisor was providing additional track protection, as the supervisor would be able to alert them of any approaching trains. However, the A&B supervisor did not believe that he was providing track protection to the track maintainers. Believing they were working on non-main track, the supervisor and track maintainers were monitoring the engineering channel rather than the mainline train standby channel.

Figure 3. Clover Bar evacuation map
(Note: Given its size, switch numbers and track numbers were difficult to read on the map; see Appendix A for the actual size of the map provided to A&B employees.)

At the time of the occurrence, the weather was –21°C (about –30°C with the wind chill), with moderate eastward winds of approximately 13 km/h. Visibility was clear.

Subdivision and track information

The Wainwright Subdivision, extending from Mile 0 (Biggar, Saskatchewan) to Mile 264.7 (North Edmonton), is part of CN’s east/west corridor for passenger and freight traffic through Saskatchewan and Alberta. In the vicinity of the accident, the maximum permissible speed is 40 mph for freight trains and 45 mph for passenger trains. Train movements on the Wainwright Subdivision are controlled by the Centralized Traffic Control System (CTC), as authorized by the CROR and supervised by an RTC located in Edmonton.

The track at the accident location consisted of 136-pound continuous welded rail, which was laid on 14-inch double-shouldered tie plates, fastened onto hardwood and softwood ties with spikes, and anchored every second tie. The cribs were full, and the ties and ballast were in good condition.

Meridian Street public crossing (Mile 259.21) is situated about 50 feet west of the accident site. The crossing protection system consisted of lights, bells, and gates, and was determined to be in serviceable condition. Data acquired from the crossing protection system indicated that the system activated and provided the requisite automated warning as train 190 approached the crossing.

Protection of track work

Under the CROR, the term “track work” is defined as:

Any work on or near the track that may render the track unsafe for movements at normal speed or where protection against movements may be required for employees and machines involved in track construction and repairs.

The term “employee” is given the following definition:

A person qualified to regulatory and company standards employed by the company. Applies to contract employees and employees of other companies and railways operating and/or performing other rules related duties on the host railway trackage.

Rule 840.1 (Protection of Track Work on Non-main Track) of the CROR states (in part):

Before starting any track work on a yard track, the employee (if any) responsible for the yard tracks, must be advised.

Before any track work is started, the foreman will provide protection as follows:

  1. each switch must be locked with a special lock in the position which will prevent a movement from operating on the portion of track where work is to be performed; or
  2. place a red flag by day, and in addition, a red light by night, or when day signals cannot be plainly seen, between the rails in each direction from the working point. When practicable such signals must be placed at least 100 yards from the working point and where there will be a clear view of them from an approaching movement of 300 yards if possible[…]

On the day of the accident, Rule 840.1 was not applied by the track maintainers. The local practice was to use safety watch protection and for a CN employee to accompany the contractors after obtaining a maintenance protect authority from the yardmaster.

Track personnel and Canadian Rail Operating Rules qualifications

CROR General Rule A states (in part):

Every employee in any service connected with movements, handling of main track switches and protection of track work shall […]:

  1. be subject to and conversant with these rules, special instructions and general operating instructions;
  2. have a copy of this rule book, the general operating instructions, current time table and any supplements, and other documents specified by the company accessible while on duty;
    […]
  3. be conversant with and governed by every safety rule and instruction of the company pertaining to their occupation;
  4. pass the required examination at prescribed intervals, not to exceed three years, and carry while on duty, a valid certificate of rules qualification;
    […]
  5. when reporting for duty, be fit, rested and familiar with their duties and territory over which they operate […]

For track personnel, CROR recertification is required every 3 years. A 2-day refresher training session is provided, and the exam is performed on-line.

At CN, only one person in the group is required to be qualified in the CROR as long as the other track workers are not handling main track switches. For contract work, CN allows the contracted company to determine whether other track workers need to be CROR qualified. On 26 March 2012, the A&B foreman had attended and passed a CN CROR course. On 28 February 2011, the A&B supervisor had attended and passed a CN CROR course. The qualifications of one of the A&B track maintainers had expired. The other A&B track maintainer was not CROR qualified.

Transport Canada has indicated that activities on the track necessitating the protection of employees constitutes track work, and that contract employees and employees of other companies are required to be CROR qualified.

Safety Watch protection at Canadian National

In the 1990’s, safety watch protection emerged as a form of track worker protection on North American railways. As a procedure, it was designed to improve track worker productivity, especially at locations with increased traffic and reduced track time. The use of safety watch protection was originally introduced for single-track territory. The practice was eventually adapted and implemented for multi-track territory.

In 2001, when CN adopted the use of this track worker protection, written guidelines were established within CN’s General Engineering Instructions (GEI). These guidelines were revised in 2006 and in 2009.

CN GEI Section 3.1, Forms of Protection, states (in part):

All Engineering employees required to foul or occupy tracks must be protected by one of the following means:

  • Positive protection as per the CROR
  • Safety Watch
  • Lone Worker

CN GEI Section 5.0 and 5.3 states (in part):

5.0 Safety Watch

5.1 Work that is performed on or about the track that does not require positive protection as provided by the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) may be performed with a Safety Watch. The sole duty of the Safety Watch is to protect working personnel through the observance of all train and track unit movements and hazards from all directions. The Safety Watch must dedicate their entire attention to this task and never engage in other activities, which could detract them from this primary responsibility to protect others.

[…]

5.3 The Safety Watch must always remain in a position to immediately warn by physical means those employees they are protecting of any approaching rail traffic.

In December 2011, CN issued clarifications to these guidelines, specifying that snow removal can be conducted under safety watch protection using backpack blowers on track where the speed is restricted to 15 mph. In such circumstances, the safety watch person must use tag lines to provide physical warning of approaching movements.

Canadian National training on Safety Watch

As part of CN’s CROR refresher training, safety watch protection was presented as part of the engineering workbook.Footnote 9 Within this training module, the following question was asked:

May ALL track work be performed solely under the protection of a Safety Watch?

From the facilitator’s training guide, the correct answer was:

No. Positive protection is available for any track work requirement and Safety Watch on its own should only be used when the work to be performed does not render the track unsafe and employees and equipment can be immediately advised of and clear approaching trains.

There was no other mention of safety watch protection within the training material.

A 1993 video (Funeral for a Friend) that highlights a number of fatalities involving engineering servicesFootnote 10 (ES) employees on CN tracks was also used as a training aid. The video indicates that, in each case, proper track protection was not obtained. Safety watch protection is also discussed as an approved form of track protection. The example provided involves use of loud machinery on track, with the safety watch employee wearing hearing protection.

A&B had been working on CN property since May 2012, about 7 months before receiving the 2011 GEI updates. On 01 November 2012, CN provided A&B with a copy of the 2011  GEI clarifications and the safety watch exam. CN indicated that any employees trained in the previous GEI version must be retrained with the current version. CN relied on A&B to provide this training to its employees. In addition, training attendance records were to be forwarded to CN. None of the A&B employees involved in this accident had been trained or tested on the 2011 GEI clarifications. A&B did not interpret receipt of the 2011 GEI clarifications from CN as a clear notice of a substantive change, and as a consequence, the material was not circulated internally. These employees were not aware of the GEI clarifications, including the requirements for safety watch protection while using backpack blowers (Appendix B). There is no regulatory requirement for GEI training or testing.

Through general discussion with 3 other contracting companies that provided track maintenance services to CN, it was determined that before this accident:

  • none of the contracting companies had been given the 2011 GEI clarifications, which include a list describing work activities for which safety watch protection can be used and the restrictions (where applicable);
  • none of the employees from the contracting companies had taken the safety watch exam to ensure they understood the 2011 GEI clarifications involving safety watch procedures;
  • knowledge of safety watch procedures for the contract track workers was normally acquired on the job; and
  • there were different interpretations among the contract track workers of the rules regarding how long they must be in the clear before the arrival of an approaching train at the work site.

Railway requirements for job briefing

Section 2.1 of CN’s GEI states (in part):

Prior to commencing any work, and as conditions or circumstances or the method of protection is changed, extended or about to be released, the person in charge of a work group will hold a Job Briefing session for all persons engaged in the activity. Both employees and non-employees (contractors, etc.) must be included.

Section 2.2 of CN’s GEI states (in part):

The Job Briefing session shall cover all relevant issues with respect to the tasks being performed and necessary safety precautions that must be taken, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Designation of the employee in charge,
  • Method of on-track protection being used and the limits of authority,
  • Track(s) that may be fouled,
  • Operational control of movements on adjacent tracks, if any,
  • Procedure to arrange for protection on adjacent tracks, if necessary,
  • Means of providing a warning when Safety Watch is used,
  • Designated place of safety where workers will clear for trains or track units,
  • Designated work zones around track units, and
  • Safety working and travelling distances between track units.

Section 2.3 of CN’s GEI states (in part):

At the conclusion of the Job Briefing, all employees shall confirm understanding. Job Briefing information shall be kept in writing, in prescribed Job Briefing books, for ready reference by each employee.

With respect to job briefing requirements when safety watch protection is used, the 2011 GEI clarifications state (in part):

Prior to implementing Safety Watch protection, the person in charge, the Safety Watch and the employee(s) being protected must conduct a thorough Job Briefing to ensure that at a minimum the following items are covered and there is a clear understanding of:

  • who is the designated Safety Watch;
  • where the Safety Watch will be positioned;
  • what work is to be performed;
  • how the work is to be performed;
  • if additional clearing time is required;
  • the maximum speed of trains on that track and required sightline distance;
  • the sightline distances at the work site;
  • where the workers will clear on the approach of rail traffic;
  • how the warning is to be given;
  • where any tools are to be placed when clearing;
  • who will clear the tools; and
  • other risks at the work site.

This information must be documented (in writing) in the Job Briefing.

In addition to the 2011 GEI clarifications for safety watch procedures, a more current CN job aid Footnote 11 form was created for use during a job briefing. The form requires a field-level risk assessment to be performed when blowing snow with a motorized backpack blower while working under safety watch protection (Appendix C). The A&B supervisor was aware of the revised CN job aid and its contents.

Safety watch is a permitted form of track worker protection for use with some tasks that may reduce the track worker’s ability to hear approaching trains (e.g., snow removal with motorized backpack blowers). However, in such cases, workers are not permitted to work on track where the maximum train speed exceeds 15 mph. In addition, the workers are required to use tag lines that can be tugged by the person providing safety watch protection when there is an approaching train.

Train horn audibility

Qualification testing conducted by CN in 2005 on its GM SD70M-2 locomotives (i.e., the same type of locomotive as the lead locomotive on train 190) determined that the model of horn applied as standard equipment on these locomotivesFootnote 12 met regulatory requirements.

Railway and regulatory requirements for worker safety

As part of its safety management system (SMS), CN conducts performance measurement of rules compliance (PMRC) to evaluate the extent to which employees comply with rules, regulations, standards, and other procedures. These tests are documented, and misapplications of rules/procedures are addressed. Job briefing and safety watch procedures are within the scope of CN’s PMRC tests. Company records indicate that, in the preceding year, worker safety procedures had been followed correctly by its employees.

A number of CN PMRC tests had also been conducted in the same time frame on A&B employees. One of the A&B employees involved in this accident was tested and did not have the required (i.e., up-to-date) railway timetable. The specific test did not establish whether this employee had the latest version of CN’s GEI.

Transport Canada (TC) monitors and audits railways and their employees with respect to compliance with rules, regulations, and standards. However, as safety watch protection is a company-initiated procedure, TC has not specifically audited this type of track worker protection. TC considers it to be the company’s responsibility to ensure that its employees comply with this procedure. Within Alberta, between July 2011 and December 2012, there had not been any regulatory or audit inspections concerning the use of safety watch protection by contractors working on CN property.

Track worker protection on other Canadian railways

Canadian Pacific’s (CP) Lookout Warning Policy (Appendix D) is similar to CN’s safety watch practice. CP’s policy specifies (in part) that lookouts must have a valid certificate of rules qualification at the “D” level as a minimum.

For track owned by VIA Rail Canada Inc. (VIA), the safety watch procedure is not permitted on main track territory if the authorized train speed is greater than 15 mph.

Track worker protection on United States railroads

In the United States, track worker protection procedures are included in section 214.329 of the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 49, Volume 4, revised 01 October 2003), which states (in part):

Roadway workers in a roadway work group who foul any track outside of working limits shall be given warning of approaching trains by one or more watchmen/lookouts in accordance with the following provisions:

(f) Every roadway worker who is assigned the duties of a watchman/lookout shall first be trained, qualified and designated in writing by the employer to do so in accordance with the provisions of section 214.349.

Section 214.349 of the Code of Federal Regulations states (in part):

  1. The training and qualification for roadway workers assigned the duties of watchmen/lookout shall include, as a minimum, consideration of the following factors:
    1. Detection and recognition of approaching trains.
    2. Effective warning of roadway workers of the approach of trains.
    3. Determination of the distance along the track at which trains must be visible in order to provide the prescribed warning time.
    4. Rules and procedures of the railroad to be used for train approach warning.

Other related occurrences

Transportation Safety Board Rail Occurrence R07D0033

On 19 April 2007, a railway signal maintainer was struck and fatally injured by a freight train at Mile 52.8 of the CN Kingston Subdivision near Regis, Ontario. The signal maintainer was spray-painting a switch machine under lone worker protection.

Following the accident, a lone worker job aid was developed and distributed to CN ES employees. The job aid included a form (Statement of On-track Safety) that provides a chart indicating the minimum required sightline distances associated with authorized track speed. The form must be completed by each employee before using lone worker protection and must be in the employee’s possession while work is being performed.

Transportation Safety Board Rail Investigation R11T0161

On 14 July 2011, at approximately 1306, VIA passenger train 051 (VIA 51) was proceeding westward at 96 mph on the south track of the Kingston Subdivision. Near Mile 314.4, the crew noticed 2 CN ES employees working on the north track. VIA 51’s bell and horn were sounded while approaching the work location. With no immediate reaction from the track workers, the crew applied the emergency train brake. Approximately 6 seconds before the train reached the work location, one track worker moved north to clear the track and shouted to the co-worker to clear the track. The other track worker attempted to exit to the south and was struck and fatally injured by the train. The track workers had been using the safety watch procedure for protection.

Following the accident, the TSB issued Rail Safety Advisory (RSA) 09/11 (Use of Lone Worker and Safety Watch Protection on High Speed Railway Corridors) to TC. The advisory explained the potential for misinterpretation of CN’s GEI regarding track worker protection. The letter also stated that given the importance of workplace safety for track maintenance personnel on high-speed railway corridors, TC may wish to review the manner in which federally regulated railways implement, monitor, and conduct training for lone worker and safety watch protection to ensure that the criteria are properly applied and that adequate protection is provided to track maintenance personnel. TC indicated that it was considering the possibility of encouraging the railways to develop new rules and/or amend older ones to incorporate these company instructions into a more formal regulatory framework.

As reported in TSB Railway Investigation Report R11T0161:

On 19 July 2011, CN Supervisors and Health and Safety Representatives were advised of the rescinding of Safety Watch and Lone Worker protection on the Kingston Subdivision.

On 03 August 2011, CN issued a Safety Flash to ES [engineering services] employees reiterating the requirements to properly apply Safety Watch.

CN’s ES reviewed the Safety Watch procedure and implemented the following improvements:

  • enhanced the sight line distance / time chart to include the time employees need to clear the track,
  • developed a list of activities that could be performed under Safety Watch protection, and
  • developed a Safety Watch job aid and training course for all engineering employees.Footnote 13

On 28 November 2011, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) issued 3 directions. These directions and CN’s responses to them, are described in TSB Railway Investigation Report R11T0161 as follows:

  • The Preventative Measure Direction called for, in part: To the extent that the employer controls the activity, develop, implement and monitor, in consultation with the appropriate committee or, health and safety representative:
    • a prescribed program for the prevention of hazards in the work place,
    • provide for the education of employees in health and safety matters,
    • take preventive measures to address hazard of moving trains within areas of track that the employer knows would be unsafe to use Safety Watch i.e. sharp bends in the track, and
    • first try to eliminate the hazard.
  • The Hazard Elimination Direction requested the identification of areas where safety watch would be prohibited as a method of track protection.
  • The Lack of Supervision Direction stated in part that: The employer has failed to:
    • take preventative measures to address assessed hazards,
    • manage/supervise their employees’ work methods, to ensure that work being completed is done so in accordance with CN’s safety protocol.

CN was directed to address the above three contraventions no later than 5 January 2012.

[…]

On 21 December 2011, CN responded to HRSDC’s Preventative Measures Direction indicating that a rigorous “Safety Watch” training initiative had been implemented. […]

CN’s response to HRSDC’s Hazard Elimination Direction indicated that safety watch protection, as a method of protection on all class 5 double-track territory including the Kingston, Oakville and portions of the St-Hyacinthe subdivisions remains suspended. Safety watch on all other tracks is governed by the more stringent general operating instructions.

CN’s response to HRSDC’s Lack of Supervision Direction indicated that CN’s System Management Safety Plan includes the Performance Management Rules Compliance program that involves supervisors monitoring employees and contractors while they work, assessing their performance with regard to process, procedures, method of protection, PPE [personal protection equipment], etc. Safety watch protection processes across the system underwent 2504 observations, with a compliance rate of 98%. Of the failures, 17% of the employees were formally investigated and received between 10 and 30 demerit points through the discipline system. The balance of the employees that were non-compliant were addressed at the time of the observance by the supervisor who reviewed the intent of the Safety Watch process and the application of the parameters. Once the process is confirmed to be understood by the employee or contractor, the supervisor authorizes resumption of work and records this action in the PMRC [performance measurement of rules compliance] database.

The actions taken by CN met the requirements of [the 3] HRSDC Directions.Footnote 14

Analysis

There were no track, equipment, or train handling anomalies noted that may have contributed to the accident. This analysis will focus on the interactions between the railway and A&B Rail Services Limited (A&B), the training of third-party contractor employees, the safety watch procedures, the job briefing, and oversight of railway general engineering instructions (GEI).

The accident

As eastbound train 190 traversed the 2° right-hand curve on the main track approaching Mile 259.21, the train crew observed 3 track maintainers positioned between the rails. The track maintainers were all facing east with their backs to the train, and were occupied with clearing snow from the switch. When the track maintainers did not respond to the locomotive horn, the train brakes were placed into emergency. The train was unable to stop before striking the track maintainers, who all sustained serious injuries. With their backs to the approaching train and the audible warning of the locomotive horn attenuated by the noise from the backpack blowers, the 3 track maintainers did not become aware of the approaching train in time to safely clear the track.

Of the 3 track maintainers, the only person who was rules qualified was the one holding the tether lines. However, that track maintainer did not believe that he was the designated safety watch person.

None of the track maintainers were aware that they were working on the main track. In addition, none of the track maintainers were aware that safety watch protection was not a permitted form of track protection when performing this type of work (i.e., blowing snow using motorized backpack blowers) on a main track. At the time of the occurrence, the A&B supervisor, whom the track maintainers believed to be the designated safety watch person, was following up with other operational duties and was not directly overseeing the work at the switch. The supervisor and one of the track maintainers each had access to two-way radio. However, they were not monitoring the mainline standby channel, as they were supposed to be working on non-main track. Additionally, the noise of the backpack blowers would likely have rendered any broadcast to the track maintainer inaudible.

The A&B employees had not been trained or tested on the Canadian National (CN) GEI clarifications regarding safety watch procedures, which included a specific restriction on the use of backpack blowers at locations where the maximum track speed exceeded 15 mph. In the absence of up-to-date training, the 3 A&B track maintainers were performing track work activities that were not permitted under safety watch protection and without appropriate track protection.

Train crew actions

The train was travelling at 27 mph just west of the whistle post for the crossing at Mile 259.21 when the track maintainers first came into view. As it is not uncommon for train crews to encounter track maintainers on the track, the normal course of action is to sound the locomotive horn, as was done in this case. The train crew anticipated that the track maintainers would react and clear the track. When the track maintainers did not react, the crew placed the train brakes in emergency (at about 1110 feet from the track workers). The train was travelling at about 25 mph when it struck the 3 track maintainers. The train crew’s actions were appropriate to the circumstances they encountered and were not considered causal to the accident.

Worker safety for contract employees at Canadian National

Transport Canada’s (TC’s) safety management system (SMS) regulations make specific reference to the responsibility of railways with regard to the safety of third parties working on their property. Specifically, it is the obligation of the railway to ensure that its employees and any other persons to whom they grant access to its property have appropriate skills and training and have adequate supervision to ensure that they comply with all safety requirements. In this occurrence, it was determined that:

  • the December 2011 clarification to CN’s GEI regarding safety watch procedures was not disseminated to A&B management until 01 November  2012;
  • the A&B supervisor and track workers were not aware of the recent clarifications to CN’s GEI regarding the application of safety watch procedures;
  • the job briefing was conducted between CN and the A&B supervisor, without the participation of the A&B track maintainers who were going to perform the work;
  • the completed A&B job briefing form was missing a number of important pieces of information (i.e., information that was required on the revised CN job briefing form);
  • the CN managers did not review, nor are they required to review, what was copied on the job briefing form;
  • the employees involved in the accident did not have a common understanding of the manner in which the track work was to be protected;
  • neither the A&B supervisor nor the A&B track maintainers were sufficiently familiar with the territory (e.g., track layout in the vicinity of the accident); and
  • at the time of the accident, there was no direct oversight/guidance being provided by CN to the A&B work crew.

Railway property is a potentially dangerous work environment for individuals who have not been properly trained. For this reason, railways invest heavily in the training of their employees and devote significant resources to promoting employee safety. Subsequent to the Durham Junction accident (TSB Rail Investigation Report R11T0161), CN made numerous improvements to its safety watch and job briefing procedures. 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 and ensure that its employees are properly trained, the A&B track employees had not been fully trained in safe railway working practices. They were not being directly supervised, and had not been made aware of the changes to the safety watch procedures that had been made after the Durham Junction accident.

Qualification of track workers

Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) training provides information to track workers about how to differentiate between main track switches and non-main track switches, even when unfamiliar with the territory (e.g., switch target colour and switch locks). CN requires that only one person in the group be qualified in the CROR as long as the other track workers are not handling the main track switches. In contrast, Canadian Pacific requires that all track workers be CROR qualified. CN onsiders it to be up to the contracted company to determine whether other track workers must be qualified. TC has indicated that activities on the track necessitating the protection of employees constitutes track work, and that contract employees and employees of other companies are required to be CROR qualified.

In this occurrence, only 1 of the 3 A&B track workers was CROR qualified. If CROR training is not provided to all track workers, there is an increased risk that track work will be conducted without adequate protection.

Job briefing forms

Despite the availability of a more comprehensive CN job briefing form, the A&B supervisor recorded the specific details of the job onto an A&B job briefing form. The A&B track maintainers had not been invited to the job briefing. The CN managers at the job briefing were not made aware of the information that the A&B supervisor recorded. The job briefing form prepared by the supervisor contained a number of inaccuracies and omissions, which were consequently relayed during the job brief between the A&B supervisor and the A&B track workers. These deficiencies may have been identified and corrected if the other A&B employees had been present at the briefing. If all employees whose safety is affected do not take part in comprehensive job briefings, track workers may not protect themselves from the risks inherent in the job tasks.

Oversight of railway general engineering instructions

In Canada, the safety watch procedure is established by industry instructions and does not form part of a regulation. Consequently, TC does not specifically oversee employee compliance and management oversight of such procedures. Other jurisdictions (e.g., United States) have taken the initiative to regulate similar methods of track protection.

Subsequent to the Durham Junction accident in July 2011 (TSB Rail Investigation Report R11T0161), Transport Canada indicated that it was considering incorporating safety watch protection into a more formal regulatory framework. However, this incorporation has not happened. If safety watch–type procedures for track worker protection are not regulated, there is an increased risk that these procedures will not be applied and supervised on a consistent basis across railways and contracting companies.

Findings

Findings as to causes and contributing factors

  1. With their backs to the approaching train and the audible warning of the locomotive horn attenuated by the noise from the backpack blowers, the 3 track maintainers did not become aware of the approaching train in time to safely clear the track.
  2. The A&B Rail Services supervisor, whom the track maintainers believed to be the designated safety watch person, was following up with other operational duties and was not directly overseeing the work at the switch.
  3. The job briefing was conducted by Canadian National and the A&B Rail Services supervisor without the participaton of the A&B Rail Services track maintainers, who were going to perform the work.
  4. In the absence of up-to-date training, the 3 A&B Rail Services track maintainers were performing track work activities that were not permitted under safety watch protection and without appropriate track protection.
  5. 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 Rail Services’s obligation to protect the health and safety of its employees by ensuring they are properly trained, the A&B Rail Services track employees had not been fully trained in safe railway working practices, were not being directly supervised, and had not been made aware of the changes to the safety watch procedures.

Findings as to risk

  1. If Canadian Rail Operating Rules training is not provided to all track workers, there is an increased risk that track work will be conducted without adequate protection.
  2. If all employees whose safety is affected do not take part in comprehensive job briefings, track workers may not protect themselves from the risks inherent in the job tasks.
  3. If safety watch–type procedures for track worker protection are not regulated, there is an increased risk that these procedures will not be applied and supervised on a consistent basis across railways and contracting companies.

Other findings

  1. The train crew’s actions were appropriate to the circumstances they encountered and were not considered causal to the accident.

Safety action

Safety action taken

Transportation Safety Board of Canada

On 08 January 2013, the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) sent Rail Safety Advisory (RSA) 01/13, Adequacy of Training Related to the use of Safety Watch Protection, to Transport Canada (TC). The RSA suggested that TC may wish to review the manner in which railways implement, monitor, and conduct training for safety watch protection to ensure that the instructions are properly applied and that adequate protection is provided to all track maintenance personnel, including contracted employees.

Transport Canada

On 28 February 2013, TC responded to RSA 01/13, indicating that it is working with the Railway Association of Canada to add a rule to the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) pertaining to “Safety Watch” and “Use of Safety Watch”. In January 2014, TC advised that the Railway Association of Canada has submitted proposed revisions to the current CROR that will include rules on safety watch and lone worker protection. However, there is no targeted date for review by Transport Canada.

Additionally, TC’s Ontario Surface Regional Office identified contractors working on railway property as part of a recent risk-based planning exercise. The results of the regional inspections will be assessed to determine what further action is required.

Alberta Occupational Health and Safety

On 26 December 2012, under the authority of section 10 of the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act, Alberta Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) issued a stop-work order requiringthat:

  • no track cleaning or maintenance work involving noise-generating equipment is to be completed by A&B Rail Services Limited (A&B) until this stop-work order is lifted; and
  • A&B Rail Services is to demonstrate to OHS how it will ensure the safety of any of its workers using noise-generating equipment on or near rail tracks in the future.

A&B Rail Services Limited

On 28 December 2012, A&B Rail Services responded to Alberta OHS indicating that any new procedures would be disseminated and explained regarding current CN safety watch procedures and current A&B safety watch procedures and Safe Job Procedure – Safety Watch. New procedural modifications were provided to all employees, which state (in part):

  1. No workers will conduct work, maintenance, or construction on ANY main line track without positive track protection, as outlined in the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) with locations confirmed in writing with RTC [rail traffic controllers] and or CN site Supervisors.
  2. No workers will conduct maintenance or onstruction on any track other than main line track (IAW [in accordance with] CROR Rule 40.1 other than main track) without red flags and or private locks when practicable.
  3. Installation of portable derails on track where practicable to do so.
  4. ALL workers will receive training on the new SWP [Safety Watch Procedure] and SJP [Safe Job Procedure].
  5. Safety Watch training will be incorporated into all new hire and yearly re-hire training for ALL employees […], in addition further instruction of safety watch requirements to be reviewed by the Forman [sic] in charge at site specific locations.
  6. Safety Watch will be used on all protected track where an adjacent mainline track is within 25 feet of the work area.
  7. All crews will immediately receive the new ABR Safety Watch Training if engaged in Snow Clearing or Maintenance work on unprotected track.
  8. Job Formen [sic] will review with their crew, all the duties of the safety watch at daily job briefing prior to start of work and have them written down in each crew members job briefing book, prior to accessing any track and using a safety watch for track protection on that work day[…]
  9. All Foremen and Employees In Charge will ensure all workers receive a Site Specific Orientation on any site they have not visited within three months prior to the start of any work related activities, which will be written in their job briefing booklets.Footnote 15

In addition, A&B Rail Services established the following requirements:

  • Before safety watch protection can be used, employees must complete the safety watch protection exam and must print, sign, and date the new Safe Work Practice and Safe Job Procedure.
  • The track maintainers must be included in the job briefing, and assurance must be given that everyone understands the instructions. In addition, hazard assessments must be done clearly and concisely on the day that the work is taking place, and every employee must sign it.

This report concludes the Transportation Safety Board's investigation into this occurrence. Consequently, the Board authorized the release of this report on 29 January 2014. It was officially released on 24 April 2014.

Appendices

Appendix A – Clover Bar evacuation map (actual size of map provided to A&B Rail Services employees)

Note: Actual size of map provided to A&B employees (PDF, 288 kb)

Appendix B – Canadian National’s General Engineering Instruction Clarifications (effective December 2011)

PROVISION FOR THE USE OF SAFETY WATCH PROTECTION

1.0 General

These instructions are intended to clarify and be used in conjunction with the CN General Engineering Instruction (GEI) 5.0, Safety Watch

Work that is performed on our about the track that does not require positive protection as provided by the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) may be performed with a Safety Watch. A list of work that can be undertaken under Safety Watch protection is attached. Safety Watch Protection is not applicable in multi-track Class 5 territory (i.e. multi track territory where freight trains speeds exceed 60 mph and passenger trains exceed 80 mph).

2.0 Duties of a Safety Watch

The sole duty of the Safety Watch is to protect working personnel through the observance of all train movements and hazards from all directions. The Safety Watch must dedicate their entire attention to this task and never engage in distracting activities, such as talking on a cell phone, text messaging, browsing, etc. In addition, they are never to engage in any other distracting activities, including the work being undertaken.

3.0 Job Briefing

Prior to implementing Safety Watch protection, the person in charge, the Safety Watch and the employee(s) being protected must conduct a thorough job briefing to ensure that at a minimum the following items are covered and there is a clear understanding of:

  • who is the designated Safety Watch,
  • where the Safety Watch will be positioned,
  • what work is to be performed,
  • how the work is to be performed,
  • if additional clearing time is required
  • the maximum speed of trains on that track and required sightline distance,
  • the sightline distances at the work site,
  • where the workers will clear on the approach of rail traffic,
  • how the warning is to be given,
  • where any tools are to be placed when clearing,
  • who will clear the tools, and
  • other risks at the work site.

This information must be documented (in writing) in the job briefing notes.

4.0 Determination of Adequate Clear Sightline Distance

There are a number of ways in which clear sightline distances can be determined. Employees should select the method that best suits their situation.

  1. Track features, such as crossings, bridges, overpasses, turnouts, way side buildings, etc., whose mileage is known can be used as reference points to determine the sight distance to the work location.
  2. Location of mileage boards can be used as a reference point to determine the sight distance to the work location.
  3. If railway pole lines are present, these can be counted in either direction to obtain sightline distances.
  4. If the work location is one that is frequented often (such as a turnout, road crossing, diamond crossing, etc.), a tape measure, measuring wheel or a track unit with a distance counter can be used to measure sight distances for all future visits to that location.
  5. The use of portable hand held optical distance measuring devices may be used to determine clear sight line distances.

Note: Employees may be required to demonstrate how the sightline distance was obtained. Please ensure this is information is recorded for permanent and ready access when required.

5.0 Clear Sightline Distances

Safety Watch protection will NOT be considered as adequate protection where sightlines, train speeds, weather conditions, restricted clearing ability, etc., do not allow sufficient time for each worker being protected to move to and occupy a previously arranged place of safety not less than 15 seconds before a train moving at maximum speed for that track, reaches that point.

Should more time be required to clear the track, it must be added to the 15 seconds.

Example: An employee is working under Safety Watch protection on a track where the maximum train speed is 35 mph. It is determined that it will take the employee 5 seconds to clear himself and his tools from the track and be in a place of safety after being warned of an approaching train. This 5 seconds must be added to the 15 seconds indicated above. Therefore, from the table below, the clear sight lines required are found under the 20 second column for a train speed of 35 mph, or 1030 ft. of clear distance in either direction.

MINIMUM REQUIRED SIGHTLINE DISTANCES

Train Speed (mph) Required Sight Lines (in ft.)
15 seconds 20 seconds 25 seconds 30 seconds
10 220 295 370 440
15 330 440 550 660
20 440 590 735 880
25 550 735 920 1100
30 660 880 1100 1320
35 770 1030 1290 1540
40 880 1175 1470 1760
45 990 1320 1655 1980
50 1100 1470 1840 2200
55 1210 1615 2020 2420
60 1320 1760 2205 2640
65 1430 1910 2390 2860
70 1540 2055 2570 3080
75 1650 2200 2755 3300
80 1760 2350 2940 3520
85 1870 2495 3125 3740
90 1980 2640 3310 3960
95 2090 2790 3490 4180
100 2200 2935 3675 4400

Chart included in CN’s 2011 GEI clarifications

WORK THAT CAN BE UNDERTAKEN USING SAFETY WATCH PROTECTION

Description of Work Track Signals Bridges
1 Adjusting switches/stands no no no
2 Anchoring yes n/a yes*
3 Bolt tightening or individual replacement yes yes yes*
4 Bonding – without drilling yes yes n/a
5 Bonding – temporary yes yes n/a
6 Brush cutting – hand tools only yes yes yes*
7 Cotter key replacement yes yes n/a
8 Crossing – road surface installation or removal no no no
9 Crossing testing n/a yes n/a
10 Culvert inspections yes n/a yes
11 Derail adjustment yes n/a n/a
12 Digging/shoveling ballast by hand yes yes yes*
13 Drifting joints yes n/a n/a
14 Electric lock testing/opening no no no
15 Gauge rod removal/installation yes n/a n/a
16 Gauging – every 4th tie with hand tools yes n/a n/a
17 Grinding yes yes n/a
18 Hand measuring of clearances yes yes yes*
19 Inspection of bridges from underneath or beside bridge yes yes yes
20 Inspection of signal apparatus and appliances yes Yes yes*
21 Inspection of track – on foot yes yes yes*
22 Joint drilling no no no
23 Lagging screws – off track tools only yes yes yes*
24 Lubricating yes yes yes*
25 Minor bridge handrail and walkway maintenance, bolt tightening, removal from deck n/a n/a no
26 Painting comp joints, switch handles, derails, safety appliances, etc. yes yes yes*
27 Pole line work n/a yes n/a
28 Rail replacement no no no
29 Rail wear measurements yes n/a n/a
30 SCC box testing no no no
31 SCD installation, removal and maintenance. n/a yes n/a
32 Shimming no no no
33 Shoulder trimming with hand tools yes n/a n/a
34 Shunting no no no
35 Sign repair and installation – Mile/whistle/station yes yes yes*
36 Signal alignment n/a yes n/a
37 Signal and utility locates yes yes yes*
38 Signal system disruptions no no no
39 Slotting joints yes yes n/a
40 Snow removal – hand tools only yes yes yes
41 Snow removal – with compressors and backpack blowers** (Only applicable where track speed is 15 mph or less) yes yes yes*
42 Spiking/clip installation yes yes yes*
43 Spring switch testing
(Only applicable on yard tracks where track speed is 15 mph or less)
yes yes yes*
44 Surveying/layout/staking/alignment measurements yes yes yes*
45 Switch machine testing no no no
46 Switch target replacement yes yes n/a
47 Tamping by hand (without track jacks) yes yes yes*
48 Thermite welding no no no
49 Tie installation no no no
50 Tie plate replacement (single tie plate without jacks) yes n/a n/a
51 Tie marking/painting defective ties yes n/a n/a
52 Welding/points/frogs, and joints yes n/a n/a

NOTES:

  • * denotes that the work is not applicable on bridges
  • Where the work to be performed is not listed in the above table, Safety Watch must not be used as a form of protection.
  • ** In the application of Item 41
  • applicable where track speed is 15 mph or less
  • when back pack blower is used, must utilize tag line to provide physical warning
  • when compressor is used physical warning may be provided by use of tag

Issued by:
Office of the Chief Engineer
Structures and Engineering Standards
Issued: November 25, 2011
Revised: December 20, 2011

Appendix C – Canadian National Job Aid for blowing snow with compressor, backpack blower

Appendix D – Canadian Pacific Railway’s Lookout Warning Policy

Footnotes

Footnote 1

All times are Mountain Standard Time.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

A green-over-red signal, meaning proceed at track speed.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Footnote 3

Rule 14(l) (Engine Whistle Signals) of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules (CROR) requires the whistle to be sounded (i.e., long, long, short, long) at public crossings at grade, from the whistle post until the crossing is fully occupied. For trains travelling less than 44 mph, the whistle signal must be sounded to provide a minimum of 20 seconds of warning. Rule 14(f) requires the sounding of a succession of short sounds as an alarm to persons or animals on or near the track.

Return to footnote 3 referrer

Footnote 4

The tag line is a nylon rope attached to the back of a portable blower. The line is held by another track worker, who pulls on it to warn the worker wearing the backpack blower to clear the track if there is an approaching movement.

Return to footnote 4 referrer

Footnote 5

A snow jet is a large piece of railway equipment that uses forced air produced by a jet engine to remove snow from track switches.

Return to footnote 5 referrer

Footnote 6

A safety watch procedure is a form of protection for on-track activities, such as inspections and minor repairs, that do not require positive protection from the rail traffic controller.

Return to footnote 6 referrer

Footnote 7

A maintenance protect authority contains an authority number, the name of the employee requesting the protection, the designation of track to be protected, specific locations, the amount of time required, a completion time, and the initials of the employee issuing the protection. Both parties must be involved in the written cancellation of this authorization.

Return to footnote 7 referrer

Footnote 8

Main track hand-operated switches are equipped with locks and targets that display green when lined for the through route, and red when lined for the diverging route. Non-main track hand-operated switches are not usually equipped with locks unless the railway desires them to be left lined and locked in the normal position when not in use. Non-main track switches are equipped with targets that display green for the through route and yellow for the diverging route.

Return to footnote 8 referrer

Footnote 9

The engineering workbook (dated June 2008) refers to CROR refresher material (presented by a facilitator) that provides review and practice questions concerning rules predominantly used by engineering employees.

Return to footnote 9 referrer

Footnote 10

Engineering services employees include railway track maintenance workers and signal and communications workers.

Return to footnote 10 referrer

Footnote 11

A job aid is a document developed for training and reference purposes to describe the recommended application of a rule or procedure.

Return to footnote 11 referrer

Footnote 12

Nathan K5LLAR1L 5-chime air horn on the 8910

Return to footnote 12 referrer

Footnote 13

TSB Railway Investigation Report R11T0161

Return to footnote 13 referrer

Footnote 14

Ibid.

Return to footnote 14 referrer

Footnote 15

A&B Rail Services Limited, CCR Response [letter] (28 December 2012)

Return to footnote 15 referrer