TSB releases Watchlist 2018: a call to action on safety management and fatigue issues

Transportation Safety Board of Canada Press Release | October 29, 2018

Estimated reading time 5 minutes, 42 seconds.

On Oct. 29, 2018, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) released Watchlist 2018 and identified seven key issues requiring government and industry’s attention to make Canada’s transportation system even safer in the air, marine and rail sectors.

“At the TSB we recognize that fatigue can affect performance. We see it in one investigation after the other, across all modes of transportation,” said TSB chair Kathy Fox. TSB Photo

This fifth Watchlist edition, like previous ones, builds on hundreds of investigations, compelling findings and data, and active TSB recommendations.

A major safety hazard, crossing all three transportation modes, is employee fatigue. Pervasive, especially in a 24/7 industry where crews can work long and irregular schedules across multiple time zones, fatigue has been found to be a risk or contributing factor in more than 90 TSB investigations since 1992.

“At the TSB we recognize that fatigue can affect performance. We see it in one investigation after the other, across all modes of transportation,” said TSB chair Kathy Fox.

“Transport Canada, operators, unions, and employees all share the responsibility for preventing and managing fatigue at work. This also calls for a profound change in attitudes and behaviours, both at the management and operational levels.”

Watchlist 2018 spells out clear actions that are necessary to effectively address each of the issues. For example, fatigue management requires, at a minimum, adequate duty-time regulations based on fatigue science, fatigue management plans that are tailored to company operations, and awareness training for employees and managers to help them prevent fatigue and know how to mitigate the symptoms before an accident happens.

This year, three items were removed from the Watchlist due to actions taken by stakeholders and/or progress achieved in reducing the underlying safety deficiencies.

They are: the transportation of flammable liquids by rail, the need for on-board voice and video recorders in main-track locomotives, and the issue of unstable approaches that are continued to a landing at Canadian airports.

The TSB will continue to monitor progress in those areas through its investigations, active recommendations and outreach activities.

“That’s the good news,” said Fox. “What’s more troubling is the ongoing status of some persisting issues that have been on the Watchlist for some time.”

Again this year, Watchlist 2018 highlights the following issues as systemic risks to transportation safety:

  • The disturbing safety record of the fishing industry, which has caused an all-time high of 17 fatalities so far in 2018;
  • The lack of additional physical defences to ensure that railway signals are consistently followed;
  • Runway overruns and the risk of collisions from runway incursions at Canadian airports.

Contributing to the problem are important gaps still remaining in the safety management and oversight regime for federally-regulated transportation companies.

In addition, the slow pace of the regulatory process to implement TSB recommendations only serves to perpetuate safety risks, putting Canada behind some international standards.

More than 60 TSB recommendations are still outstanding after a decade, a third of which are more than 20 years old.

The TSB will closely monitor progress on Watchlist 2018 and report publicly on what change agents promise versus what they deliver.

“Advancing safety is all about change,” Fox concluded. “And change is all about looking at how things have always been done and finding ways to do them better. The safety of Canadians everywhere, and the integrity of our infrastructure and environment, depend on it.”

Minister’s response

Transport Minister Marc Garneau issued a statement shortly after the Watchlist release, noting measures Transport Canada has taken to address some of TSB’s concerns.

“The Transportation Safety Board plays a very important role in ensuring that Canada’s transportation sector remains one of the safest in the world, and I welcome the publication of their 2018 Watchlist,” said Garneau.

He noted the removal of several items from the Watchlist since its last edition in 2016, including concerns about unstable approaches for aircraft. The other items noted in Garneau’s statement focused on rail safety.

“There are other important issues on the Watchlist that the department continues to address,” he said. “Among those, fatigue of transportation workers. This issue was addressed at a recent Transport Canada/McGill University forum this past June. The Fatigue Forum in Transportation brought together participants from all modes, stakeholders, and academic experts on fatigue science to discuss risks and best practices relating to fatigue management.

“Transport Canada continually examines existing fatigue management requirements to determine if amendments are required to update the regime and works in partnership with key federal partners and stakeholders in developing any options. The department is proposing new pilot fatigue rules to make air travel safer for Canadians, with the intent of publishing the final regulations in the Canada Gazette, Part II, in 2018.”

“Safety and security are my top priorities, and I share the Transportation Safety Board’s goal of continuously looking for ways to improve the safety of Canada’s transportation system,” he concluded.

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