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Poverty Times #3

Hazardous material transport risk management in Canada

by Wayne Bissett

Canada’s transport system must cope with many risk factors: long distances, routes through varying climates with 30°C temperatures in summer down to –40°C in winter, even ice roads across frozen northern lakes.

On 10 November 1979 a freight train derailed just outside of Toronto. The ensuing explosion, propane fi res and release of chlorine led to the evacuation of more than 200,000 residents. The accident caused the federal government to pass the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act (TDGA) to improve management systems and infrastructure. Subsequent federal and regional legislation introduced requirements on notifi cations and permits, placards, particular containment measures, emergency response plans, incident reports and training. The UN Transport of Dangerous Goods Code is a basic part of national regulatory requirements and Canada is an active member of the UN Committee of Experts on Transport of Dangerous Goods.

Transport Canada operates the Canadian Transport Emergency Centre (CANUTEC), which maintains an extensive scientifi c databank on chemicals manufactured, stored and transported in Canada (1). CANUTEC handles some 30,000 telephone calls a year, about 1,000 of which involve an emergency report. Staff work directly with emergency teams to provide immediate advice.

The Canadian Chemical Producers’ Association has been operating a Transportation Emergency Assistance Plan since 1974, to provide emergency response personnel and equipment to incidents involving their members’ products as well as other events. Many of our larger municipalities have established dangerous goods routes to avoid the most populated areas.

All of these measures combine to reduce the risk of mishaps in the transport of dangerous goods and minimise any damage when they do occur.

Wayne Bissett is a retired Chief of Emergency Preparedness and Response, Environment Canada.

1. The Emergency Response Guidebook is available in English, French and Spanish at canutec/erg_gmu/erg2000_menu.htm