Safety Advisory: Bridges & culverts: Mitigating risks during and after severe weather




Reference number
SA-RW 2015-03

This Safety Advisory is being issued to provincially-regulated railways and is subject to the Railway Act, Railway Safety Act, and associated regulations.

Date of Revision: March 10, 2020



Severe weather events that result in flooding or high flows frequently damage or wash out railway bridges and culverts. These severe weather events can threaten safe railway operations when the risks are not recognized or adequately mitigated.


Recommended actions

Technical Safety BC recommends that railway companies consistently identify and mitigate the risks associated with operating over bridges and culverts during and after severe weather. Railway companies should periodically examine the implementation and effectiveness of their existing policies and procedures that pertain to such situations.

To ensure that safe railway operations are maintained during and after severe weather, it is recommended that railway companies:

  1. Conduct risk assessments for all bridges and culverts and develop mitigating measures to bring the risks associated with operating over them during and after severe weather to acceptable levels; and
  2. Develop and implement documented processes and procedures that pertain to safe operations over bridges and culverts during and after severe weather.

Items that should be considered include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. Identification of bridges and culverts which are susceptible to scour or lateral stream migration;
  2. Identification of areas known to be subject to flooding or high flows;
  3. Identification of bridges and culverts that have experienced damage as a result of a previous event;
  4. Identification of critical bridges and culverts to determine whether, when, and where projected flooding or high flows might be consequential;
  5. Awareness of snow pack conditions and impact on spring runoff;
  6. Awareness of effects of ice flow dams and other debris accumulation on the substructure;
  7. Develop and implement acceptable methods of protecting bridges and culverts before, during, and after a flood or high flow event;
  8. Develop and implement monitoring technologies that could provide advance warning of pending failures due to the effects of an event;
  9. Use of sonar, sensors, and other smart technologies to monitor scour-critical bridges;
  10. Define qualification and training requirements for inspectors to monitor bridges and culverts during an event;
  11. Develop processes for monitoring the occurrence of severe weather events;
  12. Define frequency and scope of inspections to be performed during a flood or high flow event; and
  13. Determine acceptable methods of performing underwater inspection when divers cannot be used.



Provincially regulated railways are required under the Railway Safety Management System Regulations to identify and perform risk assessments for hazards that may threaten safe railway operations, and to comply with all applicable regulations. Failure to adhere to the necessary rules/regulations may result in enforcement measures being taken against the railway.


Arne Vigen
Technical Leader, Railway
Technical Safety BC

For additional information, please contact Technical Safety BC’s railway program administration at 778 396 2063 or email

Safety Advisory Railway No: SA-RW 2015-03

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