Rail Transport of Oil and Gas is an Issue for Worker Safety as well as Public Safety

In a communique released on January 23, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) jointly issued recommendations to improve the safe transportation of crude oil by rail. The recommendations – described as strong, urgent, and unprecedented – spring from their investigations into the Lac-Mégantic disaster, which identified critical weaknesses in the North American rail system. “Today we are making three recommendations calling for tougher standards for Class 111 tank cars; route planning and analysis; and emergency response assistance plans.” Transport Minister Raitt committed only to review the recommendations, and highlighted the steps already taken, including to hire more rail inspectors and “to set the groundwork for creating whistleblower protection for employees who raise safety concerns.” Transport Canada already issued new regulations for Class 111 tank cars on January 10th and appointed a Railway Safety Advisory Committee, composed of railway companies, Transport Canada, the Railway Association of Canada, provinces, shippers, suppliers and municipalities. The Advisory Committee is tasked to look at issues including operator fatigue and crew sizes, yet there is no inclusion of labour unions, even though the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference (TCRC) and their Maintenance of Way Employees Division (TCRC-MWED) represent 12,000 workers who operate the trains and repair the tracks, and Unifor Rail Division represents another 9,000 rail workers in Canada. The Teamsters have launched their own rail safety campaign, Things are Falling off the Rails, at: http://teamstersrail.ca/background.htm.

Read the Canadian Transportation Safety Board communique at: http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/medias-media/communiques/rail/2014/r13d0054-20140123.asp. The response by Transport Canada Minister Lisa Raitt to the CTSB communique is at: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=811029. See also the January 10 press release re:rail car regulations at: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?mthd=advSrch&crtr.page=2&crtr.dpt1D=6695&nid=808769 and the appointment of the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (Oct. 2013) at: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?crtr.sj1D=&crtr.mnthndVl=1&mthd=advSrch&crtr.dpt1D=&nid=783579

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