Rail Safety – a collective effort

27 April 2016
Posted by Kirby Jang

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The railway system has always fascinated me. Early in my career, while working in the private sector as a railway systems consultant, much of my work focused on the development of more effective processes for inspecting and maintaining railway infrastructure. In 2003, when I had the opportunity to join the Transportation Safety Board in the Rail Branch, it was a very easy decision for me to take on this new challenge. Initially as a Regional Manager, and then in 2009, as the Director of Investigations, I have been involved in over 100 rail investigations. In each investigation, there have been opportunities to learn even more about railway safety.

In the spirit of rail safety week, I want to take the occasion to shed more light on what we do when rail occurrences are reported to the TSB, and on how we communicate the issues that we find in order to advance transportation safety.

Numbers that speak louder than words

In 2015, about 1200 rail occurrences were reported to the TSB. Of these:

  • 143 accidents involved dangerous goods
  • 59 accidents involved passenger trains
  • 46 people died
  • 51 people were seriously injured

To put these numbers into context, take the Quebec-Windsor Corridor for example. This route covers 1,336 miles of track and 862 crossings. Over the last 10 years, there have been 302 main-track accidents in this corridor.

And just this year, in 2016, the TSB has already deployed to six significant rail occurrences.

How are these numbers useful?

First, the TSB collects and assesses data on each occurrence reported to us. This helps us determine and analyze safety trends. In fact, we provide some of this data on our website, along with monthly and yearly statistics.

Then, assessment of these occurrences can also lead investigators to follow up further with the operator, to communicate safety information to the regulator and industry stakeholders, to deploy to the site of an accident, and to conduct a full investigation, with, possibly, Board recommendations. This is all with a view to advancing rail safety.

How do we advance rail safety? Let us count the ways…

Identifying safety deficiencies is just part of an investigator’s job. Communicating these deficiencies in a compelling manner will help prompt the regulator and industry stakeholders to find solutions to address the deficiency. This is the key to advancing rail safety. The TSB has various ways of communicating safety deficiencies:

Rail crossing safety has actually been on our Watchlist since 2010. There have been improvements in the Quebec-Windsor Corridor; but elsewhere in Canada, more work still needs to be done. For more information, check out this video.

Another way to encourage change agents to take safety action is through our outreach program. The Rail Branch has participated in over 40 outreach activities last year. Investigators, managers, and Board Members have delivered speeches, given presentations, discussed issues at general meetings, and even written articles in order to raise awareness on the rail issues that need attention. This blog is just one more example of our dedication to raising awareness.

Promoting safety on the ground

Rail Safety Week is an annual event organized by Operation Lifesaver to raise awareness about rail safety and to remind us that we all have a role to play in staying safe. Ultimately, the information they share is the kind that can save lives.

At the TSB, by being able to share these safety messages with industry, the regulator and the public, I am truly blessed with being able to help advance railway safety.

Image of Kirby Jang

With both a Masters in Civil Engineering and Business Administration, Kirby Jang joined the TSB in 2003 as the Manager of Regional Operations. Since then, he has played a key role in over 100 rail accidents and became Director of the Railway/Pipeline Investigation Branch in 2009. Kirby enjoys travelling and spending time with his son and daughter at the local hockey arenas during the winter.

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