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Feds issue new directive on transporting dangerous goods

(Canadian OH&S News)


(Canadian OH&S News)

Canada’s Minister of Transport, Lisa Raitt, has issued a new protective direction to the rail industry regarding the transportation of dangerous goods. The new measures, which went into effect immediately upon announcement on Nov. 20, deal with communication between railway companies carrying dangerous materials and the municipalities through which they travel.

“These measures address requests from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and its members for more information on the dangerous goods being transported by rail in their communities,” a source working in media relations with Transport Canada (TC) told COHSN. “In addition, these measures further support municipal emergency planners and first responders with their emergency planning and response training.”

The direction, which will be in effect for three years unless Raitt or her designate cancels it, requires all Canadian Class 1 railway companies that move dangerous goods to provide yearly aggregate information on the nature and volume of the transported goods to the designated emergency planning officials of the relevant municipalities. A Class 1 railway is defined as a rail company whose revenue has exceeded $250 million during each of the last two years. Two examples include Canadian National and Canadian Pacific Railway.

In addition, people and companies that transport dangerous materials via rail and that don’t qualify as Class 1 must provide similar information (as well as any important changes) immediately. All transporters of dangerous goods also have to provide full contact information (name, title, address, phone numbers, fax, email) of those who will deal with the respective municipalities’ Emergency Planning Officials to TC, via the Canadian Transport Emergency Centre.

The federal government will work on developing more permanent regulations while this direction is active. “The safety of Canadians is Transport Canada’s top priority,” TC said.

The measures follow the Lac-Mégantic rail disaster on July 5 (COHSN, July 15), in which an eastbound Montreal, Maine and Atlantic train derailed and burst into flames and explosions in the southern Quebec town. The incident, which claimed the lives of an estimated 50 people, is currently under investigation by the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB).

New measures follow Lac-Mégantic derailment

“Following the tragic accident in Lac-Mégantic, Transport Canada has been examining any other means of improving rail safety and the safe transportation of dangerous goods,” the source added. “Transport Canada recognizes the responsibilities of all parties involved in maintaining safe transportation in Canada, including provinces, territories, municipalities and industry.”

Claude Dauphin, the president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), applauded the protective direction in a Nov. 20 press release.

“The Lac-Mégantic tragedy and recent derailments in other parts of the country have underscored the critical role that municipalities play in planning for and responding to rail emergencies involving dangerous goods,” Dauphin said. “These new regulations should serve as a model for federal-municipal partnership.”

Dauphin added that the FCM had called on the Canadian government to close the information gap between rail transporters and cities, to help the latter plan for emergencies properly.

TC said that all stakeholders involved in moving dangerous goods were responsible for keeping Canadian transportation safe and that it was working closely with railways, municipalities, manufacturers, producers, consignors, multi-modal shippers, first responders, unions and the TSB to promote safety.

“By issuing the protective direction,” TC’s source added, “the Minister has acted to further enhance safety in the transportation of dangerous goods and facilitate an ongoing dialogue between railways and municipalities.”

The direction falls under section 32 of the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act of 1992, a federal act that regulates the transportation of dangerous goods in Canada.


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2 Comments » for Feds issue new directive on transporting dangerous goods
  1. David C says:

    Our government (all 3 tiers) are slow and passive in almost everything. We talk, talk, and talk; action will come after things happen and only when they cannot cover it. Provincial government is my employer, and their attitude is “to comply with the law but just do the minimum”. Sometimes, they bend the laws a bit.

    So what would happen to Canadians? Very interesting.

  2. David Weizenbach says:

    For the timing and desire for ‘immediate action’ this path is not unreasonable. Any bigger changes do demand time to actually implement (i.e. rail car changes/replacements look at least 24 months out) and the appreciation and communication of what is acceptable risk is difficult. Even if the frequency of derailments is cut in half – neither the transporters nor the manufacturers can guarantee another event wont happen. Just as in Alberta – we (as the public) – believe it is okay to have 3 fatalities every 2 days on our roads. There are lots of reasons for all of these – and our target remains zero – but appreciation of the impact and acceptability is difficult.

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