TSB # M 01/2003
THE TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD OF CANADA ISSUES FIVE RECOMMENDATIONS IN ITS REPORT ON THE VESSEL WINDOC, STRUCK BY BRIDGE 11 IN THE WELLAND CANAL
(Gatineau, Quebec, 9 January 2003) - The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) today released its report on the striking of the vessel Windoc by Bridge 11 in the Welland Canal on 11 August 2001. In its report, TSB makes safety recommendations on:
- fitness for duty and employee supervision in safety-sensitive positions;
- emergency preparedness; and
- bridge defences against inadvertent lowering.
The accident occurred when the bulk carrier Windoc proceeded downbound under Bridge 11 in the Welland Canal, at Allanburg, Ontario. The vessel was struck by the bridge, which was lowered before it had passed clear. The vessel's wheelhouse and funnel were destroyed. The Windoc drifted downstream, caught fire, and grounded approximately 800 metres from the bridge. The vessel was later declared a constructive total loss by the insurer. The bridge sustained structural damage, and the Welland Canal was closed to vessel traffic for two days. There were no serious injuries or pollution.
"In the first few months of the investigation and prior to the opening of the next shipping season, the TSB has issued four safety advisories and noted improvements made by the St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC), Transport Canada and local emergency response teams," said Camille Thériault, Chairman of the TSB. "This canal is a critically important waterway, with more than 3,000 vessels passing through in a typical year. More stringent measures are required to enhance the safety of the public, on the water and on shore," he added.
A comprehensive program is necessary to ensure that any diminishing of an employee's performance in a safety-sensitive position is identified and dealt with as soon as possible. Within the scope of the Canadian Human Rights Commission's Policy on Alcohol and Drug Testing, the Board recommends that:
- SLSMC reassess and clearly identify safety-sensitive positions, and
- SLSMC establish proactive programs and policies involving peers, supervisors and managers to detect risks for safety-sensitive positions.
Many vessels carry petroleum and other chemical products, which, involved in an accident, could cause damage to populated areas and the environment near the Seaway. Given the high risks, the Board recommends that:
- SLSMC conduct a proper exercise with all appropriate authorities to respond to emergencies and;
- Transport Canada ensure appropriate overall preparedness along the Seaway.
The investigation also found that a bridge operator working alone did not represent an adequate defence against the inadvertent lowering of a bridge. Suitable backup arrangements are essential. The Board therefore recommends that:
- SLSMC ensure that physical and administrative defences are in place.
The Board has also identified two safety concerns on the accessibility of ship fire control plans and on the installation of sprinkler systems on ships.
The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is an independent agency operating under its own Act of Parliament. 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.
TSB Marine Safety Recommendations as a result of the striking of the
vessel Windoc by the Bridge 11 in the Welland Canal
on 11 August 2001.
On 11 August 2001, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) began its investigation into the striking of the Windoc and identified several factors which compromised marine safety. As soon as deficiencies were identified and within a few months of the accident, TSB issued Marine Safety Advisories (MSA) to provide St.Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation (SLSMC) and Transport Canada (TC) with information on these safety deficiencies.
In November 2001, TSB sent a Marine Safety Advisory to SLSMC advising them of the less-than-adequate regime in place for monitoring the medical fitness of SLSMC employees, particularly those in safety-sensitive positions. In response, SLSMC took steps to draft policies and procedures to address the issue.
In January 2002, TSB sent a MSA to SLSMC concerning the adequacy of their emergency preparedness for responding to vessel-related emergencies within the Seaway. In this case, SLSMC established an emergency planning committee and in May 2002 an emergency preparedness policy had been developed. One SLSMC employee has since received exercise design team training.
In February 2002, TSB sent a MSA to SLSMC concerning the adequacy of supervision of bridge operators to help ensure that they can consistently perform their job functions in an appropriate and safe manner. The SLSMC restructured how it supervises its operations, created four new shift supervisor positions and implement handover procedures.
In March 2002, TSB sent a MSA to TC advising of the continuing risks posed by disparities in the readiness of shore-based firefighters to respond to shipboard fires. TC provided an update on their initiatives resulting from the TSB investigation of this accident and other similiar occurrences. These initiatives involved the provision of international shore connections, assistance in preparing response plans and awareness sessions for firefighters.
The responses to the MSAs were assessed to determine if sufficient actions had been taken to mitigate the risk. While the Board has noted the progress, it is of the opinion that more stringent measures need to be taken to enhance marine safety, therefore the Board made the following five recommendations.
Fitness for Duty and Employee Supervision in Safety-sensitive Positions
SLSMC's policies provide little opportunity for peers, supervisors and managers to identify and deal with employees who may be experiencing personal problems which could affect their fitness for duty. SLSMC should review their supervision and monitoring with respect to fitness for duty to the full extent permissible under human rights legislation. The Board therefore recommends that:
- The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation reassess and clearly identify safety-sensitive positions in their organization in which incapacity due to impairment could result in direct and significant risk of injury to the employee, others or the environment.
- The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation establish programs and policies which are pro-active and promote early detection of impairment and safety risk of employees occupying safety-sensitive positions by management, supervisors or peers and which provide an effective mechanism for remedial action.
SLSMC has never undertaken a major multi-agency vessel emergency response exercise. Other agencies have conducted similar exercises within the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes. The Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation, an American corporation responsible for the Seaway, has participated in, or hosted, annual emergency exercises since 1992. Given the risk associated with an improperly coordinated response, the Board therefore, recommends that:
- The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation conduct, in collaboration with the other appropriate authorities and organizations, exercises to respond to vessel-related emergencies which may be encountered within the Seaway, including the Welland Canal, in order to evaluate the preparedness for responding to a major vessel-related emergency.
Transport Canada has provided little, if any, oversight of emergency plans, training and exercises. The Board therefore recommends that:
- The Department of Transport ensure that overall preparedness is appropriate for responding to vessel-related emergencies within the Seaway.
Bridge Defences Against Inadvertent Lowering
In the absence of effective backup monitoring systems, the bridge operator continues to be the sole line of defence against the inadvertent lowering of a span onto a vessel. The Board therefore recommends that:
- The St. Lawrence Seaway Management Corporation ensure that physical and administrative defences are in place to ensure that Seaway bridges are prevented from coming into contact with transiting vessels.
TSB has identified infrared technology to detect the presence of vessels, which is in use on some lift bridges under the jurisdiction of the United States Coast Guard.
Accessibility of Fire Control Plans
Without available fire plans on vessels, shore-based fire departments do not have access to information on the disposition of fire fighting equipment. TC is conducting a review of the regulation. However, in the interim, inaccessibility of a ship's fire control plans may continue to hinder the firefighting capability of municipal fire departments.
Installation of Sprinkler Systems
The sprinkler system of the Windoc was installed on wooden structures. As these burned, the sprinkler was rendered unserviceable. The Board is concerned that other older vessels may be equipped with similar systems.
The TSB is an independent agency that investigates marine, pipeline, railway and aviation 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
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