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Associate Member Profile | Rail-Werks Inc.

Alberta has a pioneering history. That’s certainly the case when it comes to rail safety and regulation.

In the late 1990s, faced with federal downloading of regulatory responsibilities, the province’s transportation department adopted several federal railway regulations (that came into force September 1, 2002) affecting approximately 360 railways under its jurisdiction.

In 2005, and over the next five years, officials worked with private-sector partners to regulate industrial, heritage, and short-lines railways in Alberta.

Knut Ohm was one of the key provincial players in that process, which he says produced “the best set of regulations in North America.” Other jurisdictions have since asked to use elements of Alberta’s regulatory framework.

When Knut ‘retired’ from Alberta Transportation in May 2020, he realized that he still had a role to play in improving rail safety in the province.

After just a weekend of down time, he joined the team at Rail-Werx, Inc., which he says is staffed with experienced railway professionals.

“It’s fun,” Knut says. “The majority of our people have such a great history and knowledge in rail that is shared with our industry clients.”

Rail-Werx, a Railway of Canada associate member, provides training, auditing, and other consulting services to rail operators to ensure they are meeting regulatory compliance. Rail-Werx is part of the TraxxGroup consortium. Partner companies Ultra-Traxx and Petro-Traxx offer non-destructive rail testing as well as Shuttlewagon sales and mechanical services, respectively.

Knut says the evolution of the rail safety culture in Alberta is an ongoing education process, but not a tough sell.  He says: “Industry for the very most part is extremely interested and very safety conscious because they understand that it’s an unforgiving industry. If your people get hurt, they can really get hurt – or worse.”

The resources, tools, skills, and knowledge required to build on Alberta’s successes going forward, however, require deliberate succession planning. Knut says mentoring and training is a key part of the knowledge transfer to Alberta’s next generation of railroaders.

“Some companies, especially smaller operators, don’t have the resources to formally mentor newbies,” he says. “So, several industry stakeholders and Knut developed a mentorship program with a documented knowledge transfer system that is available free to industry.  It takes people through step-by-step, so nothing gets lost, missed, or overlooked.”

Getting ahead of industry’s needs and looking forward to finding solutions:  just two more ways Knut and his colleagues are helping to smooth the way to transfer knowledge that is essential for the safety of the next generation of Alberta’s rail personnel.