Employee Profile: Andy Ash
Director, Dangerous Goods
Andy Ash has dedicated nearly two full careers to keeping trains moving and Canadians safe.
He started at CN Rail’s mechanical department in 1976 and served in ‘Chemical Valley’ in Sarnia, Ontario. Andy joined the Railway Association of Canada in 1999 to develop the RAC Dangerous Goods Team to assist RAC Member Railways in the safe transport of dangerous goods (TDG).
His life’s work while, “very demanding and in-demand,” is also highly specialized and high-pressure.
“If you have an incident, dangerous goods inside some cars want to get out and kill you,” he says, matter-of-factly. “You’ve got to get it right the first time. You don’t get a second chance.”
Andy and the teammates with whom he works closely focus on prevention and response training.
Success, he says, is when there are no injuries, and goods are cleared with no environmental impact.
Andy crisscrosses the country training first responders how best to respond on those (thankfully) rare occasions they’re called to TDG incidents. Over time, he has developed one of the world’s leading rail emergency response training courses (normally held each year in Maple Ridge, B.C.).
“There’s big demand for that so we’ll have quite a bit of COVID catch-up to do,” he says. “While in-person learning is always best, thankfully, all our regulatory-requirement training can be accomplished remotely.”
Normally on the road for 80 per cent of the year, the COVID-imposed pause on travel has allowed Andy more quality time with his family and to enjoy personal pursuits.
He and his wife of 38 years, Kathleen, have three grown kids, five grandkids, and a sixth on the way.
He’s had more time to cook, to cheer on his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Argonauts, and to blare classic rock favourites while cruising in his 1976 Trans Am.
One pastime remains a work in progress (as it has been since 2007). Andy is writing a book exclusively for his kids and grandkids telling stories and showing pictures of his work over the years “so they’ll see what (he) was up to.”
“If they’re nice, I’ll even sign it,” he jokes.
When it’s done, it’s sure to be a tale of dedication and commitment with a healthy dose of good humour – just like its author.
Find out more about other RAC Staff Members.