Canada's TSB Issues Call to Action on Fatigue

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada is comparable to the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States, which also has reducing fatigue-related accidents on its current Most Wanted List.

The Transportation Safety Board of Canada released its Watchlist 2018 on Oct. 29 and simultaneously called for action to address fatigue as a contributing factor in incidents. The Watchlist identifies seven key issues requiring government and industry's attention to make Canada's transportation system even safer in the air, marine, and rail sectors. This fifth Watchlist edition, like the previous ones, builds on hundreds of investigations, findings and data, and active TSB recommendations.

The board is comparable to the National Transportation Safety Board in the United States, which also has reducing fatigue-related accidents on its current Most Wanted List.

The TSB said employee fatigue is a major safety hazard crossing all three transportation modes and is pervasive, especially in a 24/7 industry where crews can work long and irregular schedules across multiple time zones. It 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 behaviors, 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. "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
  • Lack of additional physical defenses to ensure that railway signals are consistently followed
  • Runway overruns and the risk of collisions from runway incursions at Canadian airports
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