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Railway safety issues investigation report R16H0002

Response to the Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (SCOTIC)

Place du Centre
200 Promenade du Portage, 4th Floor
Gatineau QC  K1A 1K8

19 September 2016

Related occurrence: R16H0002

Letter addressed to the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities

Re: Response to the Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (SCOTIC)

As you know, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) is an independent agency that operates at arm's length from Transport Canada and other government departments and agencies. After having carefully reviewed the June 2016 SCOTIC report entitled “An Update on Rail Safety”, the TSB hereby provides its own independent response to three of the report's recommendations that directly relate to the TSB and its work.

SCOTIC Recommendation #11

“That Transport Canada publicly release the final report on the first phase of a two-phase study to evaluate the safety benefits of locomotive voice and video recorders.”

As noted in my 22 June 2016 letter, this Safety Study was conducted as a TSB class 4 investigation under the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act (CTAISB Act). Transport Canada was invited by the TSB to participate in the Safety Study and has provided valuable collaboration. I am pleased to inform you that the Safety Study is now completed and that the final report was released publicly earlier today. The report is now available on the TSB web site. Please find attached copies of the TSB's final report entitled “Expanding the use of locomotive voice and video recorders in Canada” for distribution to members of the SCOTIC. We believe that the publication of this TSB report fully satisfies recommendation #11 of the June 2016 SCOTIC report.

The release of this report effectively concludes the TSB's Safety Study. We believe that there is now sufficient information available from this study, as well as a number of other studies and working group reports. It is now time for action on this important matter and the Board has called upon the Minister of Transport to initiate concrete actions towards the implementation of locomotive voice and video recorders (LVVR). Even though our Safety Study is completed, the TSB remains committed to working with Transport Canada and the railway industry to ensure that LVVR technology is appropriately implemented within an updated legislative framework. TSB personnel have already undertaken discussions with Transport Canada officials in this regard and are ready to assist in moving forward.

SCOTIC Recommendation #12

“That Transport Canada immediately develop legislative and regulatory structures to mandate the use of locomotive voice and video recorders by railway companies, and that effective rules be put in place to ensure recordings are used exclusively by the appropriate government authorities during Transportation Safety Board accident investigations or in subsequent criminal investigations to which they directly relate.”

The TSB fully agrees that appropriate measures should be immediately developed and implemented to mandate the installation of LVVR by railway companies. The availability of this equipment could bring an immediate safety benefit by providing objective data to accident investigators looking into the role that crew communications and human performance may have played in accident sequences. We therefore urge the government to take immediate action in this regard.

The TSB's Safety Study has clearly demonstrated that the benefits of LVVR can extend well beyond TSB investigations. This technology could also be used for proactive safety management purposes within an appropriate framework that balances the rights and obligations of all parties. The TSB therefore believes that these recordings should be made available to railway companies to help them proactively advance safety by improving training, procedures, systems, etc. In the context of effective safety management systems, companies should be able to use all possible sources of information, including voice and video recordings, to identify risks and to take proactive measures to mitigate these risks before accidents happen. However, appropriate safeguards must be put in place to ensure that recordings are used only for legitimate safety purposes. This includes ensuring that workers are protected through legislative provisions such as Section 28(7) of the CTAISB Act which states that “an on-board recording may not be used against workers in disciplinary proceedings, proceedings relating to the capacity or competence, or in legal or other proceedings”.

We also draw to SCOTIC's attention that criminal investigations are totally separate from TSB investigations and there is no link between the two. Criminal investigators and prosecutors collect their own evidence independently from the TSB. In exceptional circumstances where access to voice and video recorders is needed, Section 28(6) of the CTAISB Act already provides a mechanism for such access to be provided. We believe that this mechanism is adequate and that there is no need for any changes in this regard as it provides for a proper balance between the rights of workers and the proper administration of justice.

SCOTIC Recommendation #13

“That Transport Canada establish and adopt an expedited process for responding to Transportation Safety Board safety-related recommendations and that an enhanced reporting system be adopted to prevent recommendations from languishing, without action, on the Transportation Safety Board Active Rail Recommendations list.”

The Board is pleased to note your Recommendation #13 calling upon Transport Canada to expedite its process for responding to the TSB's Rail safety recommendations. However, we bring to your attention the fact that the TSB also has many outstanding recommendations in the Air and Marine modes of transportation. In some cases, these recommendations date back 10, 15 or 20 years. We therefore encourage SCOTIC to expand the scope of its recommendation to include all active TSB recommendations in all modes of transportation in order to help ensure the timely reduction of risks to people, property and the environment.

Should you have any questions on the TSB's responses to the SCOTIC recommendations, we would be pleased to provide further details. We look forward to seeing the government's response to the SCOTIC recommendations and to working with all stakeholders on the advancement of transportation safety.

Original signed by

Kirby Jang
Kathleen Fox