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Making Safety a Priority

May 3rd 2012 by Jean Tierney

At VIA, safety is our number one priority.  From our train operations, to the work we do at our stations, in our maintenance centres and in our offices, VIA employees strive to promote a strong safety culture across every aspect of our business operations.  This week, as we recognize Rail Safety Week, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on what safety means to us as an organization, and share just how we’re working to ensure it encompasses everything we do.

VIA operates close to 500 trains each week across 12, 500km of track – that’s a lot of trains on the move at any given moment.  For each and every one of these trains, we have processes and procedures in place to ensure that our passengers arrive at their destination safely and securely.  We focus a great deal of time and energy ensuring that all of the elements over which we have direct control, are working properly.  It’s something we take great pride in, and not something we take lightly.

Of course not everything is within our direct control; various external elements can also have an impact on the safe arrival of our trains.  This is why VIA is actively involved in outreach programs that strive to promote the importance of maintaining – and strengthening – railway safety in our communities.

According to Operation Lifesaver – an organization that focuses on educating Canadians about the hazards surrounding rail property and trains – every year approximately 300 collisions and trespassing incidents occur at highway/railway crossings and along railway tracks in Canada.  In our mind, that is 300 incidents too many.  Indeed, even one incident is one too many.  That is why VIA is proud to work with Operation Lifesaver, the Railway Association of Canada, Transport Canada and other industry partners, with a goal of preventing these incidents through education and outreach.  We believe that getting out into communities to spread the word on rail safety can save lives.

In fact, as part of Railway Safety Week, VIA has been working in collaboration with Operation Lifesaver, Belleville Police, CN Railway and Bay of Quinte Safe Communities to educate the public on the importance of following safe practices in and around railway land in the Belleville, Ontario area.  Together we have been in the community, handing out Rail Safety guides at kiosks at Belleville station and in local malls; meeting pedestrians and vehicle drivers at area rail crossings; giving safety presentations to kids at local schools and making a special donation to the Belleville Children’s Safety Village.  Throughout each of these initiatives the goal remains the same; to educate the public on how to stay safe.

Although these particular examples are taking place in the Belleville area, staying safe is important no matter where you are, and similar initiatives regularly take place right across the country.  For more information on how you can get involved, or to find out about events near you, I encourage you to visit www.operationlifesaver.ca.  Education is the first step to staying safe.

Rail safety requires the efforts of many people; from industry partners to local citizens in communities across the country.  We are fortunate to have great leaders out there, working to keep Canadians safe, but we need your help too.  When it comes to train tracks, stay off, stay away, stay safe!  Make safety your top priority.

About Jean Tierney

Jean Tierney
As senior director, Safety, Security and Risk Management, Jean Tierney is responsible for developing corporate safety, security, health and environmental policies, standards and programs for employees and passenger activities. She is also in charge of regulatory affairs and ensures emergency preparedness and business continuity systems are in place.
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