Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Stressed Fatigue, Workload Concerns Just before Lac-Megantic Disaster

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Feds Stressed Fatigue, Workload Concerns Just before Lac-Megantic Disaster

Article excerpt

Feds stressed rail fatigue, workload concerns


OTTAWA - A train operator's level of fatigue, sleep patterns and ability to "make effective, safe decisions" were among the risk factors singled out in Transport Canada guidelines for single-person train operations -- advice that was finalized just months before the Lac-Megantic rail disaster.

More than a dozen "human factors" such as amount of sleep, health, age, lifestyle and workload demands -- and the best way to deal with them -- were flagged for departmental rail safety reviewers, records obtained under the Access to Information Act show.

The Transport Canada guidelines, finalized May 13, 2013, were intended to help Transport Canada staff evaluate risk assessments filed by railways operating trains with just a single employee.

On July 6 last year, a 72-car train parked for the night came loose and rolled into the town of Lac-Megantic, Que., creating a fireball that killed 47 people, destroyed buildings and contaminated waterways.

The now-defunct Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway Ltd. and three employees of the company -- including the train's sole operator -- face charges of criminal negligence causing death.

The federal Transportation Safety Board is set to release its final report Tuesday on the devastating accident, including the railway's use of a one-man crew on the route.

A preface to a March 2013 draft of the guidelines says they were aimed at promoting "uniformity and industry best practices" with respect to the safe management of single-person train operations.

"Ultimately it is the railway company's responsibility to ensure the safety of its operation," the document says.

With regard to human factors, the guidelines recommended a railway running a one-person operation review its existing "fatigue management plan" to ensure it included advance notification of work schedules, the opportunity to nap as required and proper shift rotations, breaks and work/rest cycles.

The guidelines also called for procedures to:

-- Deal with situations when an employee judges himself unfit for work if called unexpectedly

-- Ensure the train operator has taken health and fitness training and a recent medical exam

-- Provide such lone operators with "specific training" and furnish proof of successful completion to Transport Canada upon request

The guidelines address several other areas such as speed restrictions, performing en-route inspections, communication protocols, accuracy of reports and handling emergencies. …

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