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Labour code issues flagged after fatal Canadian Pacific accident in Calgary

Transport Minister Marc Garneau has since ordered the use of handbrakes on all trains stopped on mountain slopes.


CALGARY—Documents show a federal investigator flagged labour code contraventions after a Canadian Pacific Railway train conductor died in a workplace accident in a Calgary rail yard last November.

A Transport Canada rail safety inspector, delegated by the federal labour minister, raised the issues in a letter Friday to the railway’s assistant vice-president of safety.

“The employer failed to identify and assess the hazard to employees in the Depot Calgary Alyth yard resulting from increased switching within the yard, of being struck by moving equipment being shoved into a track, without the employees controlling the movement ensuring the track remains clear of employees,” said a written directive attached to the letter obtained by The Canadian Press.

Another directive said the railway “failed to secure and maintain an accident scene where an employee was fatally injured.”

“The employer removed, interfered with, and disturbed the wreckage, articles and things related to the incident without authorization of an official delegated by the minister.”

The documents say the railway has until March 8 to inform the inspector of measures taken to make sure the failure of maintaining the accident scene doesn’t happen again.

It has until March 22 to fix issues related to the safety of the rail yard. The company was also told it can request a review by the Occupational Health and Safety Tribunal Canada.

Canadian Pacific spokeswoman Salem Woodrow said in an emailed statement that the company is reviewing the letter from Employment and Social Development Canada and that it will provide its response by the required date.

The federal department encompasses the Labour Program, which is responsible for protecting the rights and well-being of workers and employers in federally regulated workplaces.

A spokeswoman for Employment and Social Development Canada said she could not provide details on the specifics of the investigation because it is ongoing.

“The length of investigations conducted by Health and Safety Officers may vary considerably, depending on the nature and complexity of the issue,” Amelie Maissoneuve said in an email.

A spokesman for Teamsters Canada said the union would be following up with Canadian Pacific to make sure appropriate steps are taken.

Christopher Monette said the accusations are “extremely serious and suggest that this fatal accident could have been prevented.”

He added the railway should constantly be reviewing the safety of its rail yards, especially in light of increased traffic or switching.

“We’ve now lost eight of our members in a little over a year to a range of accidents and derailments,” Monette said in an email. “There is a general feeling among rail workers that the industry does not always put safety first, and these accusations only add to our membership’s anger over these incidents.”

Federal officials are investigating a separate Canadian Pacific accident that killed a conductor, engineer and trainee earlier this month near Field, B.C., just west of the Alberta-British Columbia boundary.

A Transportation Safety Board investigator has said the westbound train was parked on a grade for two hours on a frigid night, with its air brakes applied, when it started rolling on its own. No handbrakes were used.

The train sped up to well above the limit and derailed at a curve ahead of a bridge over the Kicking Horse River, sending 99 cars and two locomotives hurtling off the tracks.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau has since ordered the use of handbrakes on all trains stopped on mountain slopes.

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2016

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