Watchlist 2020 Released by Transportation Safety Board

CN Rail cars in Thunder Bay
CN Rail cars in Thunder Bay

OTTAWA – The Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) has released its Watchlist 2020. 

For 10 years, the TSB Watchlist has put the spotlight on key safety issues and actions needed to make Canada’s transportation system even safer. Watchlist 2020 identifies eight key safety issues that require government and industry attention that are the result of hundreds of investigations, compelling findings and data, and active TSB recommendations.

In these unprecedented times, the transportation industry, and the entire country, is faced with many challenges. While recognizing the hardship brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the TSB’s focus on safety remains the same.

“The Watchlist is always evolving,” explains TSB Chair Kathy Fox. “If sufficient progress is made to reduce the risks, old issues are removed, just as new issues are added when they arise. Watchlist 2020 is a good example of this as several issues remain from previous years, but we have also added a new issue, removed one and split another into two.”

New to Watchlist 2020 is the risk of unplanned or uncontrolled movement of railway equipment. The number of uncontrolled movements is climbing, with last year’s total of 78 well above the 10-year average. The TSB has made two recommendations relating to uncontrolled movements (R14-04 & R20-01) and issued one safety concern.

“Recent occurrences in British Columbia and Saskatchewan have taken a deadly toll,” says Fox. “Reducing these numbers will require collaboration between Transport Canada (TC), the railways, and their labour representatives as they devise strategies and implement physical and administrative defences to reduce the risks.”

Removed from this year’s Watchlist is slow progress responding to TSB recommendations, which was first highlighted in 2016. At that time, there were 52 outstanding TSB recommendations that were at least 10 years old, with more than half over 20 years old. In 2020, the Board determined that the progress made to date is sufficient for its removal. The TSB will continue to monitor the remaining outstanding recommendations through other Watchlist issues and its annual reassessment of outstanding recommendations.

The multi-modal issues of safety management and regulatory oversight or surveillance remain on this year’s Watchlist, now as separate issues as each is distinct and requires unique solutions.

Also remaining on Watchlist 2020:

  • Commercial fishing safety: Progress on safety has been slow, sporadic, and localized. After ten years of being on the Watchlist, TSB reports continue to identify the same unsafe conditions: poor knowledge of a vessel’s stability limits, failure to carry essential lifesaving equipment and failure to wear a personal flotation device.
  • Runway overruns: Despite actions taken to date, the number of runway overruns in Canada has remained constant since 2005 and still demands a concerted effort to be reduced.
  • Runway incursions: The rate of runway incursions, which occur when an aircraft or vehicle mistakenly occupies an active runway, has increased by 86% over ten years.
  • Following railway signals: The number of reported occurrences of signals not being followed has increased as train crews misinterpret or misperceive a signal indication. In the absence of physical fail-safe defences, this could result in a collision or a derailment.
  • Fatigue: One of the most pervasive issues that remain on the Watchlist, fatigue poses a risk to the safety of air, marine, and freight train operations because of its potential to degrade several aspects of human performance.

“Will fixing these transportation safety issues be easy? Of course not,” concludes Fox.