Canada Proposing Fatigue Regulation for Rail Workers

A committee recommended last year that Transport Canada, in cooperation with the federal departments responsible for health and labor, take immediate action through a working group to develop options to improve the management of railway crew fatigue.

Saying Canadians deserve the safest transportation system possible and should be confident that railroad workers are ready for duty and well rested, Marc Garneau, the government's minister of Transport, on Nov. 7 announced what he described as a first step toward addressing fatigue management in the rail industry. Fatigue is common in the 24/7 railway transportation industry, where employees are subject to shiftwork, disruptive schedules, and long hours, according to his agency.

He said a Notice of Intent will be published in the Canada Gazette, Part I, to outline a proposed approach to incorporate up-to-date fatigue science in current requirements and further strengthen Canada's safety regime.

Garneau said Canadians, railway workers, and anyone else with a vested interest in rail safety are encouraged to provide comments following the publication of the notice. It follows Transport Canada's continued work to address rail fatigue and Garneau's commitment following the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in its June 2016 report, An Update on Rail Safety.

The report recommended that Transport Canada, in cooperation with the federal departments responsible for health and labor, "take immediate action through a working group to develop options to improve the management of railway crew fatigue, including (but not limited to) (1) enhancing work/rest rules in safety management systems (SMS); (2) removing work/rest provisions from collective bargaining processes; (3) introducing guidelines or a regulatory framework in place of SMS-based fatigue management; and (4) ensuring that fatigue rules are science-based." It said the working group's report must be tabled in Parliament by Jan. 1, 2018.

"As minister of Transport, rail safety is my top priority. My department is continuously working with stakeholders to make our railway system safer for all Canadians. That is why we propose to move forward with changes based on the latest scientific evidence in order to best protect railway operators, travelers, and those living close to rail tracks," Garneau said.

Reducing fatigue-related accidents also is on the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board's 2017-18 Most Wanted List of needed safety improvements.

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