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Watchlist 2016 — Opening remarks

Kathy Fox
Chair, Transportation Safety Board of Canada
31 October 2016

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Good morning.

In 2010, the TSB introduced its first Watchlist. Our goal was to focus the attention of industry and the regulator on those safety issues posing the greatest risk to Canada's transportation system, particularly those where action to implement TSB recommendations was too slow or insufficient.

Since then, we've updated the Watchlist every two years, reflecting progress that has been made and new issues that have emerged.

Today the TSB is releasing its latest edition. This year, though, our approach has changed. No longer is it enough to just point out a problem and then wait for government and industry to take notice. Instead, we are adopting a more proactive approach. Over the coming days, and weeks, we plan to meet with key stakeholders and industry leaders—including company owners, CEOs, and senior federal and provincial officials. We will call upon each of them to take concrete action, not to wait for others to act. And when those meetings are over, we'll be following up—on our website, in news conferences, and with articles in newspapers and magazines—reporting publically on the results, to you and to all Canadians.

I'll start this year's list on a positive note by highlighting the removal of railway crossing safety as a Watchlist issue, thanks to significant progress on the part of Transport Canada. However, a number of other issues have been carried over from the 2014  edition of the Watchlist.

To reduce the risk of collisions on runways at Canadian airports, we want to see the implementation of new technology that will immediately and directly alert pilots to reduce the risk of a catastrophic incursion.

We also want to see more airlines take action to reduce unstable approaches that continue to a landing, and for airports to install runway end safety areas to reduce the risk of damage or injury in the event an overrun does occur.

For Canadian railways, it's time to install voice and video recorders on board all main-track locomotives, along with additional physical defenses to ensure that railway signals are consistently recognized and followed.

With respect to the transportation of flammable liquids such as crude oil, the specter of Lac-Mégantic still looms large. And while a number of strong safety measures have been taken already—including the introduction of new tank car standards—until these are fully implemented, the risks in the system will persist.

In the Marine industry, we continue to see needless loss of life among commercial fishermen. It's time for new regulations, user-friendly guidelines regarding vessel stability for vessels of all sizes, and clear evidence of a culture shift among fishermen regarding the use of PFDs, survival suits, emergency beacons, and on-board safety drills.

Related to many of these accidents is our call for the government to mandate formal safety management processes for all commercial operators in the air and marine industries, and then oversee them effectively. Too many companies rely solely on regulations to tell them what's safe and what's not, even though such an approach cannot possibly foresee every contingency. What's needed is for all companies to demonstrate that the processes they have are working. If they can't, then Transport Canada must intervene.

I'd like to turn now to the two new issues on this year's Watchlist. The first is fatigue, and the significant impact it can have on the safe operation of freight trains. Whether it's shifts that are too long or irregular scheduling that interferes with normal sleep times, too many train crews aren't getting the rest they need.

Transport Canada and the rail industry have known about this problem for many years. The science behind this isn't new. But until the industry starts applying that science to crew scheduling—implementing changes instead of calling for more studies—this risk will persist.

The final issue today goes to the heart of why the Watchlist was first introduced—to push for faster and increased uptake of our recommendations. Because most of the time, Transport Canada agrees that the issues we point out need to be resolved, and they even promise to take action. Despite these good intentions, however, the department doesn't always deliver.

And not just on one or two issues. There are currently 52 TSB recommendations that have been outstanding for ten years or more. Over three dozen of those have been outstanding for more than twenty years.

We realize that some of these are tough issues that can take time to resolve. But a decade? Two decades? There is no reasonable excuse for taking that long on so many outstanding issues. Especially when the department agrees that action needs to be taken. Good intentions aren't enough. If they were, we wouldn't need a Watchlist.

Today, we are calling on industry leaders and government to up their game. It's time for Transport Canada in particular to make a clear commitment—taking action on the safety issues we've identified. The TSB will be watching. Where progress is made, we'll say so. But where not enough is being done, we're going to be vocal about it. Canadians deserve no less.

Thank you.