A Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. train operator was killed in a rail-yard accident in Port Coquitlam, B.C., on Monday night, the sixth railway employee fatality of 2019.
The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) said it is assessing the events surrounding the death, but it is too soon to say if it will open a formal investigation.
“The TSB was informed of the event last night and we are following up,” said Dean Campbell, a spokesman for the safety board.
The victim, whose name is not being released, is a 56-year-old father with 32 years service, according to the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, whose 16,000 members include 3,500 at CP.
Ten Teamsters rail employees have died on the job in the past 24 months, the union said in a statement on Tuesday. “It’s 10 too many,” said Lyndon Isaak, president of the union. “The rail industry is in crisis.”
Andy Cummings, a spokesman for the Calgary-based railway, declined to provide further details.
“The company’s deepest sympathies go out to the employee’s family, friends and colleagues,” Mr. Cummings said. “CP is offering counselling to the family and our employees through our employee and family assistance program.”
Railroader deaths have climbed this year; the six railway worker fatalities in 2019 is a rise from four in 2018, according to TSB data. The 10-year average is two a year.
On Feb. 4, three CP train operators died when their train ran out of control down a mountain track and derailed near Field, B.C. The TSB’s investigation is under way, but a preliminary report found there were no handbrakes set on the train, which had been sitting on a downward slope for about three hours in the cold when it began to move on its own.
A Canadian National Railway Co. train operator was killed in August in a yard derailment north of Toronto. He was using a remote control to drive the train while hanging on to the outside of a rail car, which tipped over and killed him, the TSB said in a preliminary report.
The number of railway accidents rose by 7 per cent in 2018 to 1,172, a 13-per-cent jump from the five-year average.
The surge outpaced the 4-per-cent increase in freight volumes.
The 2018 rise in railway derailments prompted Transport Minister Marc Garneau to seek answers at meetings that he called with the chief executives of both major domestic rail carriers.
“We need to do better,” Mr. Garneau said at the time.
Rail safety and crew fatigue were central issues in an eight-day strike by train conductors and yard workers at CN. The work stoppage by workers in the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference, which ended last week, began after the two sides failed to agree on crews’ abilities to book rest periods between shifts, and the use of remote controls to drive trains, the union said.
“Safety was a central issue during the recent strike at Canadian National Railway,” the Teamsters said. “This latest incident at CP further underscores the need for government and industry as a whole to work toward preventing senseless railway tragedies.”
The importance of rail safety was underscored on July 6, 2013, when an oil train derailed and set fire to much of the Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic, killing 47 people.
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