Train yard death sparks safety rec­om­men­da­tions


REGINA A Trans­porta­tion Safety Board re­port on a fa­tal­ity at a Saskatchew­an train yard rec­om­mends rail­way com­pa­nies work with Trans­port Canada to re­duce un­con­trolled move­ment of rail cars.

The safety board also ex­presses con­cern about in­ex­pe­ri­enced work­ers be­ing paired to­gether.

Two Cana­dian Na­tional em­ploy­ees were per­form­ing switch­ing du­ties at the com­pany’s yard in Melville, Sask., 150 kilo­me­tres east of Regina, on Dec. 22, 2017, when one was fa­tally in­jured.

The safety board says the two work­ers, one a des­ig­nated fore­man and the other a helper, were mov­ing rail cars by let­ting them roll to their in­tended track with­out the use of air brakes.

“Both em­ploy­ees were rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced and wore green vests to in­di­cate less than two years of ser­vice,” in­ves­ti­ga­tor Glen Pilon said in a video state­ment re­leased with Wed­nes­day’s re­port.

It says the work­ers were try­ing to shove three loaded cars up a slight grade by us­ing a re­mote-con­trolled lo­co­mo­tive when the cars lost mo­men­tum and be­gan rolling back­wards.

“Team work is crit­i­cal but, in this oc­cur­rence, the fore­man and the helper were work­ing in vir­tual iso­la­tion,” Pilon said.

“No plan was dis­cussed for kick­ing the cars up­hill, nor was there any shared ex­pec­ta­tion of how this would be per­formed.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion found the 26-year-old fore­man, Melissa Heins, climbed onto one of the cars to try to stop them from rolling back­wards by ap­ply­ing a hand brake.

“But the cars didn’t stop,” said Pilon, who added the brake was in­ef­fec­tive.

Heins was in­jured when the cars col­lided with sev­eral sta­tion­ary ones and she was pinned.

“This was a tragic in­ci­dent and CN wishes to ex­tend its con­do­lences to Melissa’s fam­ily, col­leagues, and com­mu­nity,” com­pany spokesman Jonathan Abe­cas­sis said in a state­ment.

Josh Heins said his sis­ter, whom he called Missy, was a gen­uine, pas­sion­ate per­son. And she loved her job with the rail­way.

“She was more so proud of it that she was ... es­sen­tially be­ing in a man’s world,” he said.

“She could keep up to all these guys ... she put a lot of them to shame, ac­tu­ally.”

He said his fam­ily is aware of the re­port and CN has been good to them.

“I think they’re go­ing to use it and make sure this doesn’t hap­pen again.”

The safety board said that since the death, CN has re­con­fig­ured the track at the Melville yard and pro­hib­ited kick­ing cars up­hill.

Board chair Kathy Fox rec­om­mends Trans­port Canada work with rail com­pa­nies and labour rep­re­sen­ta­tives to de­velop a strat­egy to re­duce the fre­quency of crews us­ing the un­con­trolled method.

“The com­pany is sup­port­ive of the TSB’S rec­om­men­da­tion that the reg­u­la­tor should work with in­dus­try and labour rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­gard­ing un­con­trolled move­ments,” said Abe­cas­sis.

Fox also high­lighted the is­sue of crew ex­pe­ri­ence. Be­cause of high turnover in the rail in­dus­try over the past few years, it’s not un­com­mon for the two most ju­nior peo­ple to be work­ing to­gether at a yard dur­ing even­ing and night shifts, she said.

Ide­ally, Fox said, the newer em­ployee would work with some­one more se­nior.

“Rail com­pa­nies are aware that so-called ‘green on green’ pair­ings of less ex­pe­ri­enced per­son­nel can be a risk.

“In this oc­cur­rence, al­though the fore­man and the helper were both qual­i­fied for their po­si­tions, that’s not the same thing as hav­ing ex­pe­ri­ence do­ing the job.”

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