Steelworkers Support Safety Recommendations in CN Rail Derailment Report

TORONTO – The United Steelworkers (USW) welcomes the Transportation Safety Board of Canada’s report on a 2015 CN Rail train derailment near Gogama, Ont., but also is calling for additional rail safety measures.

“The Transportation Safety Board has produced an in-depth report into this disaster and we support the board’s findings and recommendations,” said USW National Director Ken Neumann.

“We also believe that the board and the federal government should pursue further steps to improve rail safety,” Neumann said.

The Transportation Safety Board today released a 100-page report on its investigation into the Feb. 14, 2015, derailment of a CN Rail freight train near the northern Ontario community of Gogama. A total of 29 oil tanker cars derailed, an estimated 1.7 million litres of crude oil were released into the environment and resulting fires burned for five days.

The safety board concluded that the derailment was caused by joint bar failures in the track, also citing cold weather and insufficient training of CN Rail track inspectors. The board’s recommendations include greater training and other safety measures, such as lower speed limits for trains carrying dangerous goods.

“We have been advocating for some time for increased safety measures, including lower speed limits in certain situations, improved training and greater employee retention and recruitment,” said Randy Koch, President of USW Local 2004, which represents 3,000 CN Rail employees who maintain and repair the railway's track, bridges and infrastructure across Canada. The union’s members do not include track supervisors and assistant supervisors who are primarily responsible for inspections.

The authorized track speed for freight trains in the area of the February 2015 CN Rail derailment is 64 kilometres per hour (40 mph), the safety board report indicates. The USW believes the limit should be as low as 50 kilometres per hour in certain situations involving freight trains carrying dangerous goods.

“We support the safety board’s recommendation calling on the federal government to pursue changes to the rules on speeds for trains carrying dangerous goods,” Koch said.

The safety board report highlighted longstanding concerns regarding “the vulnerability of older tank cars used to transport crude oil and other flammable liquids.” Continued use of older, ‘Class 111’ tank cars – such as those involved in the 2015 CN Rail derailment – will contribute to “an elevated risk” in the transportation of flammable liquids, the report states.

“Current regulations allow railways to continue using these older, vulnerable tank cars until 2025,” Koch noted. “Another eight years is far too long to wait. We believe the federal government – specifically Transport Canada – should require companies to expedite the replacement of these outdated cars.”

The USW also is calling on Transport Canada to consider taking over responsibility from railways for training rail inspectors and other key employees. Transport Canada should at least improve its oversight and regulation of railways’ internal training programs, the union says.


For further information:

Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Randy Koch, President, USW Local 2004, 204-866-4264, usw2004president@gmail.com
Mike Piché, USW Staff Representative, 416-543-4770, mpiche@usw.ca
Denis St. Pierre, USW Communications, 416-544-5990, 647-522-1630, dstpierre@usw.ca

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