Workplace accident the result of insufficient training, not safety violation

Worker had previous safety violations, but neither he nor co-worker were trained on what to do in specific circumstances that led to railyard collision
By Jeffrey R. Smith
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 04/11/2018

A British Columbia employee who was fired in the wake of a rail car mishap leading to a derailment is not responsible due to a lack of proper safety training, the B.C. Supreme Court has ruled.

Richard Tymko, 54, worked as a switchman and trackmobile operator for 4-D Warner Enterprises, a transportation and heavy equipment company. 4-D had a contract with the MacKenzie Pulp Mill in MacKenzie, B.C., to move rail cars along the mill’s internal rail lines, and Tymko’s job involved moving those rail cars. When working as a trackmobile operator — trackmobiles are small locomotives that power the movement of railway cars and commodities in a railway yard — he was responsible for the forward and backward movement of the trackmobile and using the brake system. As a switchman, he was responsible for ensuring rail crossings were clear, ensuring brakes are applied on rail cars, and monitoring the movement and direction of trains.

When a trackmobile is moving, both the switchman and operator are responsible for stopping it. The operator is in charge of the brakes and the switchman — located near the back of the train — advises when it’s time to apply them and stop the trackmobile. According to standard procedure, the operator can’t move the trackmobile without the switchman advising that the track is clear and where to go. When a train is moving, the procedure is for the switchman to call car lengths before the stopping point over the radio, starting at three cars, then two, then one, then one-half. If the operator doesn’t hear the switchman counting car lengths, he’s required to stop the train immediately. The switchman also operates switches that allow railway cars to move from one track to another.