OHS Canada Magazine

Distracted Alberta railway workers hit by train

EDMONTON (Canadian OH&S News)


EDMONTON (Canadian OH&S News)

Three railway workers were hit by a passing Canadian National freight train while clearing snow from railroad switches in Edmonton on Boxing Day morning.

The train was passing through a crossing north of Yellowhead Trail between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., explained Lisa Glover, a spokesperson for Alberta Human Services. The workers were employees of A&B Rail Services Ltd. and doing contract maintenance work for CN.

The injured employees were transported to local hospitals, where two remained in stable condition with serious injuries, a release from the company said on Dec. 26. One employee was released from hospital on Dec. 28 and “is resting comfortably at home,” the release said, adding that a second worker was released three days later.

“We are respecting the family’s request for privacy during this time and not releasing any information regarding the remaining employee,” the release goes on to say. The third worker was still in hospital as of press time.

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“We are 100 per cent committed to all our employees and we will support these three workers throughout their recovery,” added A&B Rail Services president Paul Brum. “Our hearts are heavy and our thoughts are with them and their loved ones.”

Following the incident, Alberta Human Services issued a stop-work order related to track cleaning and maintenance work involving noise-generating equipment, Glover said, noting that the workers were using snow blowers and wearing noise protection at the time of the accident. The order was voluntarily extended by the company to all of its workplaces — in Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan — until it was lifted at the end of the day on Dec. 28, Glover said, although there is still the potential for future compliance orders.

The incident is being investigated by federal and provincial regulators, including CN, Alberta Health Services and the Transportation Safety Board of Canada. A&B Rail Services is conducting its own investigation and will not be releasing any related information until all investigations are completed, the statement said.

Under the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Code, employers are required to conduct a hazard assessment and develop a plan to address potential issues on the work site, Glover said, adding that while the legislation may be different in Alberta, companies are still required to comply with federal regulations that apply to their industry.

“Nothing in our legislation would be contradictory to it, ours would basically say in this type of situation, you need to identify hazards and develop a plan and the plan also has to fall under oh&s in Alberta, but also under any federal guidelines that rule your industry,” she explained. “Some industries work with different provinces, so if a company works in Alberta, Ontario and Manitoba, when they are doing work in each of those provinces, they would have to be compliant with those province’s rules.”

Federally, Section 142 of the Canadian Rail Operating Rules explains that general bulletin orders and clearances must be made available to crew members, “ensuring that each crew member has read and understand them and, when required, the arrangements for protection between crews and between foremen and crews. Crew members within physical hearing range are required to remind one another of the restrictions contained in the [general bulletin order] and clearances in sufficient time to ensure compliance.”

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