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Archived - Railway Safety Management System Regulations

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An effective SMS places safety at the cornerstone of all railway operations

Transport Canada is proposing new regulations to replace the Railway Safety Management System Regulations (SMS Regulations) that came into force in 2001. The new SMS Regulations, which are expected to be published in Canada Gazette, Part I, in July 2014, will modernize existing requirements and help railways better identify and manage safety risks.

What is an SMS?

In the past, railway companies managed safety through compliance with prescriptive rules and regulations. As research progressed during the 1990s, it became clear that it takes more than compliance to ensure safety. What railway companies needed was an organization-wide approach to identify and address risks before an accident happens.

This led to the introduction of safety management systems (SMS). An SMS provides railway companies with a focused approach to building safety throughout an organization and into every aspect of its day-to-day operations.

An SMS does not replace any regulations, rules or standards. It is a system that helps companies better comply with federal legislation and make safety an organization-wide priority.

The basic component includes safety goals, performance targets, risk assessments, responsibilities and authorities, rules and procedures, and monitoring and evaluation processes.

Transport Canada monitors compliance through formal SMS audits and detailed inspections of infrastructure, equipment and operations, and does not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action in cases where non-compliance is found.

Extending requirements to local railway companies

Since 2001, federal railway companies have been required to have an SMS. Under the proposed SMS Regulations, local railway companies will also be required to develop an SMS. A local railway company is a provincially regulated railway company or light-rail commuter service that operates on federal track; there are 35 of these companies in Canada.

Making safety a shared responsibility

An effective SMS requires leadership at every level of an organization. The proposed SMS Regulations will help railways better integrate safety into day-to-day operations, so that the entire company—from front line employees to senior management—make safety management a priority.

Under the proposed changes, railway companies will be required to appoint an executive legally accountable for safety. A process must also be created for employees to report safety risks to their employer without fear of being reprimanded.

Introducing requirements to enhance SMS

The proposed SMS Regulations will improve how railway companies develop, implement and assess their SMS. The proposed changes include new or updated processes to:

  • Encourage employees to report accidents to senior management;

  • Analyze data and trends to identify safety concerns;

  • Manage organizational knowledge so that employees can perform their duties more safely;

  • Improve work scheduling to prevent employee fatigue;

  • Create annual safety targets and develop tools to achieve them.

June 2014

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