Hazards found with railcars moving without direct supervision or positive control

18 Nov 2015

A BC Safety Authority railway safety officer conducted a risk assessment of the procedures in place for moving railcars at a provincial railway site in northeastern BC. The review was necessary after events involving railcars that travelled further than the crew intended were reported.

The assessment included discussions regarding the following:

  • A specially designed mechanical train braking device installed at the site that is not on any other provincial railways and its associated risks.
  • The use of a remote control railcar mover the rail crew uses to move the cars and its associated risks.

In the event that the railcars begin to roll away unintentionally, the mechanical braking device, a trip mechanism located at the loading scale,  releases train air if a railcar makes contact with it resulting in an emergency brake application. The site also uses a remote controlled railcar mover that is not equipped with an emergency brake button in the event of unintended movement.

The assessment findings determined the following:

  • The safest course of action and best practice is to maintain positive control while moving railcars to aid in preventing unexpected movement or railcars travelling further than expected.
  • The mechanical braking device can be left in such a way that it will not function if set incorrectly.
  • Procedures in place also allowed the crews to move the railcars without direct supervision over the movement and lacked assurance that there are a sufficient number of handbrakes applied to hold the railcars as they are being loaded.   

BCSA provided the following recommendations to the client:

  • Discontinue current procedures that allow for remote railcar operation and place a qualified employee on the railcar moving equipment while moving railcars on site or,
  • Install a remote control emergency brake option on the railcar moving equipment as this will significantly enhance safety by providing positive control while moving railcars.

The client later confirmed acceptance of the second recommendation and they purchased a railcar mover that had a remote emergency brake function included. The new equipment also eliminated the need to have the braking device installed at the loading scale.