Safety Advisory: Railway operations in winter conditions

Safety Advisory

Safety Advisory: Railway operations in winter conditions

April 7, 2020

Safety Advisory

Reference Number:

SA-RW 2013-02

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



There is a hazard to safe railway operations with the risks posed by operating during winter weather conditions are not recognized or adequately mitigated. The buildup of ice, snow, and debris on and around railway tracks can lead to unsafe operating conditions and derailments.


Recommended actions

Railways should remain vigilant and consistently identify and mitigate the risks associated with operating in winter conditions. To ensure safe railway operations are maintained during and after severe weather, a railway company should:

  1. Conduct risk assessments for its railway operations; and
  2. Develop and implement documented processes and procedures that detail how to achieve safe operations under these conditions.

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

  1. Have a winter plan focusing on important issues before the snow arrives. This includes inspecting and keeping track and walking areas free of debris and tripping hazards.
  2. Keep switches clear of snow, ice, and debris. This includes the area where crews stand to throw switches
  3. Keep switch points clear of snow, ice, and debris. Several derailments have been caused by ice and snow preventing the points from closing properly
  4. Keep crossing flangeways clear of snow, ice, and debris at all times. Vehicular traffic can compact and harden snow and ice in flangeways. As rail equipment enters the crossing, derailments can result from rail wheels riding up on compacted snow and ice.
  5. Avoid creating close clearances when removing snow. Make sure the right of way is wide enough to allow crew members to move about. Serious injuries can occur due to restricted clearances.
  6. Crews should be reminded daily of the hazards associated with the ever-changing weather and track conditions.
  7. Watch for snow and ice that can fall from adjacent roof-tops.
  8. Inspect your track area before being serviced by train crews and make them aware of any hazards created by snow and ice build-up.
  9. If heavy equipment is used for snow removal, ensure restricted clearance and derail signs have not been buried or run over.
  10. Ensure that derails and stop blocks are visible to help prevent derailments.
  11. Be prepared for when the snow melts as pooling of water can create tripping hazards or icy conditions when it freezes.
  12. Allow for more time when switching as your crews may require more time to do their job safely; your service provider will also be faced with the same issues.



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