On Monday, April 11, 2016, UCTE National President Christine Collins appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on the subject of Rail Safety. On June 21, 2016, the Committee released its final report entitled An Update on Rail Safety in which it refers to UCTE’s presentation

With regards to Safety Management System (SMS) versus regulatory oversight, the committee noted that

“…The Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE), which represents Transport Canada’s safety inspectors, recommended to the Committee that more on-site rail safety inspections (as opposed to SMS oversight activities), particularly unannounced inspections, are necessary…The National President of UCTE also told the Committee that Transport Canada should invest in appropriate inspector training to maintain their skill levels, separate inspectors from auditors and create multi -modal enforcement teams.”

As a result, the committee recommended:

  • That Transport Canada immediately increase the number of on-site and visual inspections for compliance with rail safety regulations and rules it conducts in a given year, prioritizing rail operations with a record of poor performance in terms of developing and implementing effective safety management systems or have demonstrated repeated marginal or non-compliance with federal rail safety regulations.
  • That Transport Canada assign increased resources and training for field inspections on rail safety.

Also, Sister Collins raised the need for more whistle-blower protections.  The committee noted:

Other stakeholders are also in support of more effective whistle-blower protections. For example, it is the view of UCTE that there is confusion about the options to report to either Transport Canada or the TSB and suggested rationalization of the options available and better communication broadly to explain the procedure and the protections they offer. The UCTE sums up the situation as follows: “Having a safe whistle-blower line is critical for the workers to have the confidence to report safety violations and other shortcuts that are being taken. Without it we will just continue the way we are.

The committee went on to recommend:

That Transport Canada review whistle-blower protection provisions to determine if their inclusion in safety management systems provides the appropriate framework for responsible and effective raising of operating safety issues.

It is now imperative for Transport Canada to address these recommendations.  UCTE will continue to apply pressure on government to ensure that the safety of the travelling public remains the top priority.

A full copy of the report can be found here