Culture of fear rules safety at CN

Railway takes ‘blame and punish’ route to safety management: Union
By Uyen Vu
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/09/2008

A culture of discipline and fear is at the heart of safety problems at Canadian National (CN), and improving safety records would require a cultural shift at the Montreal-based railway, a government panel report said recently.

“CN’s strict adherence to a rules-based approach, focused largely on disciplinary actions when mistakes are made, has instilled a ‘culture of fear and discipline’ and is counter to an effective safety management system. CN needs to acknowledge this openly and take concrete steps to improve,” stated the advisory panel, created by the federal minister of transportation in February 2007 to review railway safety.

The transport minister ordered the review following a five-year period that saw rail collisions and derailments on a steep increase. Among them were serious main-track derailments, including an August 2005 derailment that spilled 1.3 million litres of heavy bunker fuel oil into Wabamun Lake in Alberta; a June 2006 derailment at Lillooet, B.C., that killed two crew members; and a January 2007 derailment at Montmagny, Que., that nearly knocked over a train station. All involved CN trains.