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Statement from the Chair on fatigue management – A crucial component of transportation safety

Gatineau, Quebec, 22 November 2017 — The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is encouraged that Transport Canada has taken steps to improve transportation safety through proposals to enhance fatigue management in both the rail sector and commercial aviation.

Fatigue is pervasive throughout society, and this has important implications for the highly safety-sensitive transportation industry. We know from the rail accidents we've investigated since 1994 that sleep-related fatigue was a contributing factor, or was a risk, in 20% of the cases where human factors were identified as an issue in freight train operations. Such compelling evidence led us to add fatigue management for freight train crews to the TSB Watchlist as a systemic issue in need to be addressed.

That doesn't mean that fatigue management isn't also a concern in other transportation modes. The TSB investigates fatigue in almost every investigation to determine if it was present and if it contributed to the accident, or whether it represented a risk that needs to be flagged to raise awareness and influence change. While we didn't have sufficient data to justify elevating fatigue in aviation to our 2016 Watchlist, we have made a number of findings about fatigue in our aviation investigations over the years.

Fatigue has a detrimental impact on individuals' performance: it slows down reaction time, impairs vigilance, and can lead to risky decisions. Regulations are the first line of defense to protect crews, passengers and operators from the risk of fatigue impairment. However, fatigue management must also be included as part of comprehensive and balanced safety management.

Ultimately, everyone within the industry has a responsibility to ensure that no passenger nor crew member becomes a casualty of fatigue.

The TSB is an independent agency that investigates air, marine, pipeline, and rail 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: 819-360-4376