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TSB lays out priorities for upcoming year

By Kathy Fox,
Chair, Transportation Safety Board

This article was first published in the April 4, 2016, issue of the Hill Times newspaper.

Canada’s transportation system is vital to our economy, and moving passengers and getting goods and raw materials to and from markets—by ship, pipeline, rail or air—is something that happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from coast to coast to coast.

But regardless of what’s being moved, and where, it must be done safely. That’s why, when accidents occur, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB) digs deep to find out what happened—and then we dig deeper still to learn why. Because it’s only when industry and regulators understand the causes and contributing factors of an occurrence that they can take steps to prevent it from happening again.

Moreover, our enabling legislation stipulates that we are an independent agency, separate from other government agencies and departments. This allows us to be objective and impartial, free from any real or perceived political influence. It also goes a long way toward earning the confidence of Canadians, who ultimately fund our activities.

But independence alone isn’t enough. We also have to be credible. That’s why, for over 25 years, we’ve worked hard to set and maintain a standard of excellence, ensuring that our findings rest securely on a base of hard facts, sound science and rigorous analysis. The results speak for themselves: more than three-quarters of our overall recommendations have been assessed as Fully Satisfactory.

Advancing transportation safety, however, also means looking forward. That’s why we’re always seeking to identify risks in advance, and then pushing for pre-emptive safeguards and mitigating measures. Over the coming year, we’ll be focusing on a number of key issues, including:

A new safety Watchlist: This list, which identifies the issues posing the greatest risk to Canada’s transportation system, was first published in 2010. Since then, as progress has been made, as new issues have emerged, and as other issues have evolved, we have updated the list twice. Watch for our newest edition later this fall.

The safety issues investigation (SII) into air taxi operations in Canada: Last spring, the TSB began studying the reasons why air taxi operations continue to record the majority of accidents and fatalities in Canada’s commercial aviation sector. Phase 1 of that study is nearing completion, and, over the coming months, the TSB will be meeting with stakeholders across the country to learn more about the context of those accidents and what can be done to mitigate some of the risks.

The ongoing Joint Study on Locomotive Voice and Video Recorders: This project, in collaboration with Transport Canada and key members of Canada’s railway industry, involves examining the issues associated with locomotive onboard recorders and their potential use as a reliable source of investigative and proactive safety management information, but without punitive repercussions against employees. The study is progressing well and a draft report is expected before summer 2016.

The TSB is also keeping a close eye on a number of other safety-related topics, such as the government action on our recommendations on the use of child restraints aboard commercial aircraft, on railway crossing safety, on tougher rail tank cars, on the wider implementation of safety management systems within all modes of transportation (along with improved government oversight), and the often lengthy process to implement new regulations.

Beyond that, the TSB will, as always, continue to carry out its mandate by investigating accidents and reporting publicly, so that those best placed to effect change may do so. When concrete steps have been taken to improve safety, we’ll say so. But if not enough has been done, we’ll say that, too. It’s a formula as straightforward as it has been effective, one that all Canadians can expect to keep working for them for another 25 years, and beyond.