News Release

Safety Management Systems update

Railway Association of Canada (RAC) members welcome changes to Canada’s Railway Safety Management System (SMS) regulations, which came into effect on April 1, 2015. Canada’s railway industry worked collaboratively with Transport Canada on these revisions, which enhance an effective line of safety defence.

SMS is a framework designed to integrate safety into all decision-making, planning and day-to-day operations. The Railway Safety Act has required federally regulated railways in Canada to have an SMS for many years.  The recently updated SMS regulations encompass a wide range of requirements which every railway’s SMS must follow. Transport Canada assesses compliance with the SMS regulation through a program which includes annual reviews, and field and headquarters audits, of each railway’s performance. Railways are required to submit their updated SMS documentation to Transport Canada annually.

Some critics misconstrue SMS as a form of deregulation or industry self-regulation. In fact, SMS does not replace or lessen any existing safety rules or regulations, nor does it reduce Transport Canada’s oversight or enforcement options in any way. SMS represents an additional layer of safety defence, through which railways must implement and report on broad safety matters such as accountability, risk assessment, employee scheduling, and continuous improvement.

The SMS approach requires railways to move beyond minimum compliance with regulations, to a corporate culture which proactively identifies and mitigates risks from all sources, whether or not they are covered by Act, rule, or regulation.

Of course, the results are the most important indicators of the effectiveness of any safety regime. The industry’s accident rate has steadily declined during the last 10 years, in the face of increasing workload to support Canada’s growing economy and international trade gateways. The trend shows an already safe industry getting safer. This is the strongest possible endorsement of the two complementary pillars of Canada’s railway safety regime – strong and effective Safety Management Systems, combined with robust regulatory oversight and enforcement.



Alex Paterson
Railway Association of Canada

About the Railway Association of Canada

The Railway Association of Canada (RAC) represents more than 50 freight and passenger railway companies that move 75 million people and $250 billion worth of goods in Canada each year. As the voice of Canada’s railway industry, RAC advocates on behalf of its members and associate members to ensure that the rail sector remains globally competitive, sustainable, and most importantly, safe. Learn more at Connect with us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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