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Lack of training on safe working practices led to fatal collision between a snowplow and a train at a railway crossing in London, Ontario

Richmond Hill, Ontario, 17 July 2019 — In its investigation report (R18T0006) released today, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada found that a lack of training on safe working practices when clearing snow at railway crossings led to a fatal collision between a snowplow and a Canadian National Railway (CN) train at a crossing in London, Ontario.

On the morning of 9 January 2018, a CN freight train proceeding eastward struck a snowplow on the sidewalk at the Colborne Street public crossing. The lone snowplow operator was fatally injured.

The investigation found that the accident occurred when the snowplow travelled onto the railway crossing while clearing snow from the sidewalk. Although the warning devices—which included flashing lights, a bell, and gates—activated while the plow was in the crossing, the combination of the plow’s position, the restricted visibility inside the cab, and the background noise of the plow itself made it difficult to detect these warnings, or to hear the train’s horn. A lack of experience with railway crossings, a lack of training on safe working practices when clearing snow at railway crossings, and tunnel vision exacerbated by fatigue inhibited the effectiveness of the snowplow operator’s visual scanning. As such, the operator did not detect the oncoming train.

The investigation also found that, although the City of London provided training to its employees who operate snowplows, the contractor and subcontractor involved in this occurrence did not provide formal training to their employees on safe working practices when clearing snow at railway crossings. Oversight by the contractor and the City of London did not ensure that employees had the skills and knowledge to perform their duties safely. If snow-clearing contract companies do not have safe work procedures and related training in place for work at railway crossings, there is an increased risk of crossing accidents.

Following this occurrence, the City of London required snowplow operators employed by its sidewalk snow-clearing contractors to participate in a City-led review of safe operating practices at railway crossings. Guidance documents on clearing snow at crossings were distributed to snowplow operators at this review session.

See the TSB investigation page for further information.

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: 819-994-8053