Friday, December 28, 2012

Terrible News

CN Clover Bar yard
The CBC was reporting that 3 contract workers were hit by a train near Edmonton in the morning of Boxing Day (December 26). The three work for A&B Rail Services and were contracted to clear snow off the tracks at the CN Clover Bar rail yard just outside Edmonton. It appears that it happened here... I was right at that spot back in June 2010.

The CBC story says they were using snowblowers and had the appropriate hearing protection on, so there was no way they could have heard an approaching train. They were struck by a train traveling at approximately 40 km/hr. Two are in critical condition and one has minor injuries.

CTV Edmonton is reporting that a stop-work order has been issued and several agencies are investigating, including the Transportation Safety Board (TSB, who issued a brief statement) and Occupational Healthy and Safety.

The Edmonton Journal is reporting that two of the workers will be released soon, but the third, aged 20, is facing a long recovery. The Journal also quotes a TSB official as saying that a Safety Watch should have been in effect to warn the workers of the oncoming train.

There is not much information available online about CN's Safety Watch program. CN's Safety web page has not been substantially updated for a couple of years. As far as I can gather, a Safety Watch requires one worker to be solely dedicated to watching out for trains and other hazards and be in a position to alert the other workers in a timely manner. The Safety Watch person must not do any other work. Time will tell what happened here but clearly the system did not work for these workers.

This situation is reminiscent of the July 2011 incident near Durham, Ontario where one rail worker was killed due to an inadequate safety watch. CN updated its procedures but clearly more needs to be done to ensure the safety of CN workers and contractors.

My best wishes to the injured men and to their families for the recovery ahead.

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