Government of Canada enhances railway safety; makes execs accountable, empowers employees to report concerns

The Government is introducing new Railway Safety Management System (SMS) Regulations for federally-regulated railways. This responds to recommendations in the Transportation Safety Board's final report on the Lac-Mégantic derailment and in the fall 2013 Auditor General's report on rail safety.

In 2001, SMS Regulations came into force under the Railway Safety Act (RSA). These Regulations require railway companies to implement and maintain a safety management system that integrates safety into their day-to-day operations.

In 2008, the RSA Review Panel and the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities made several recommendations to improve SMS implementation in the rail industry. On May 1, 2013, the RSA amendments came into force, requiring revisions to the 2001 SMS Regulations.

In August 2014, the Transportation Safety Board released its final report on the Lac-Mégantic derailment. One of the TSB's recommendations was that "Transport Canada must take a more hands-on role when it comes to railways' safety management systems—making sure not just that they exist, but that they are working and that they are effective".

The Railway Safety Management System Regulations, 2015 repeal and replace the 2001 Regulations. They apply to both federally regulated railway companies and local railways operating on federally regulated track. Changes and new requirements include:

  • Federally regulated railway companies and local companies operating on federal main track will have to appoint an executive to be accountable for SMS and responsible for the operations and activities of the company;
  • Railway companies must establish policies and procedures so that employees may report safety contraventions and hazards to the company without fear of reprisal;
  • Railway companies must apply the principles of fatigue science to their employee scheduling processes;

The Safety Management System Regulations, 2015 will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part II, on February 25, 2015, and will come into force on April 1, 2015.

February 2015

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