An important link in the chain

By Kathy Fox,
Chair, Transportation Safety Board

This article appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of The Canadian Pilot magazine.

Canada’s transportation system is vital to our economy, and our vast network of waterways is a key part of getting goods and raw materials to and from markets. Marine pilots are an important link in the chain, their knowledge and skills helping to ensure each voyage begins and ends safely.

At the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), safety is our goal, too. For over 25 years, we’ve investigated accidents in the marine, pipeline, rail and air modes of transportation. When accidents occur, we dig deep to find out what happened, and then we dig deeper still to learn why. Because it’s only when you understand the causes and contributing factors of an occurrence that you can take steps to prevent it from happening again.

We don’t point fingers either—because blame doesn’t prevent accidents. Moreover, our Act states clearly that witness statements are privileged, and cannot be used against the individual in any legal, disciplinary or administrative processes. That means the people involved can speak to us freely, without blame or fear of reprisal—thereby keeping the focus on what matters most: safety.

Investigations are a collaborative effort, and we work with everyone: first responders, crews, operators, manufacturers, industry representatives, regulators—all to improve safety from coast to coast to coast. And once we’ve learned everything we can, we make sure to inform our stakeholders and the Canadian public and, where appropriate, make recommendations so that those best placed to take action can do so.

Sometimes, though, people still have questions about how we carry out our work—or maybe they’re just curious about how we’ve managed to become a world leader in accident investigation. To make sure we respond to every query, we’re active on social media—including Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. We also produce a blog and have a dynamic website filled with news releases, articles, investigation reports and presentations, contact information, and an occurrence-reporting form (1808). As well, we have a 24-hour confidential reporting program, SECURITAS, which lets anyone report by phone or e-mail any concerns they may have about safety in the transportation system.

And just like a good bridge team, we’re always keeping one eye on what’s ahead, looking for ways to do our job even better. As the times (not to mention technology!) have changed, so have we. But one thing remains constant, and that’s our vow to earn, and keep, the public’s trust. No doubt, pilots feel the same way. Because there’s not a single person in this country whose life isn’t impacted in some way by transportation, or transportation safety. Which makes what we do—all of us—matter even more.