Meet Operation Lifesaver's Advisory Committee: Read an interview with committee member Raynald Marchand

This week we continue our series of blog posts featuring interviews with the members of the Operation Lifesaver Advisory Committee. You’ll get to know the dedicated people who work together to educate Canadians on rail safety, with the goal of preventing railway related injuries and deaths. These committee members work to develop Operation Lifesaver’s national direction, set goals and priorities and offer advice to National Director, Dan Di Tota, on how best to develop and implement Operation Lifesaver’s programs. This week’s interview is with Raynald Marchand, General Manager of Programs for the Canada Safety Council. The Canada Safety Council is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization that focuses on bringing attention to safety issues and promoting safety through public awareness campaigns. The organization also serves as a voice for safety in Canada, addressing concerns and assisting in the drafting of safety legislation. On how long he’s been involved with Operation Lifesaver: “The Canada Safety Council, back in 1981, was part of the formation of Operation Lifesaver with the Railway Association of Canada and Transport Canada. We’ve been involved with it from the onset. Myself, I came to be involved with Operation Lifesaver 20, 21 years ago, when Ben Levesque was the National Director. I served on a number of committees over that time period, before taking my current place on the Advisory Committee.” On what his experience has allowed him to bring to the Advisory Committee table: “Personally, I’ve been involved in traffic safety, in one way or another, for my entire career and I believe in prevention. Operation Lifesaver is that kind of a project – where we’re looking to prevent injuries and fatalities at railway crossings and due to trespassing. I’m pleased to say that I’ve had the opportunity to bring a few things forward for the Advisory Committee. I acted as the first chairman for the annual Rail Safety Week when it started several years ago. It was modeled after one of the campaigns the Canada Safety Council had at the time. I was also instrumental in helping with the Roger Cyr Award. Roger Cyr was the first National Director and I became involved just as he was retiring. I drew from my experiences as a judge for a number of Safety Council awards to help Operation Lifesaver come up with the award. It is now very well received.” On the importance of Operation Lifesaver: “I think Operation Lifesaver is very important because it is targeted. It’s targeting a specific problem – a problem that in the traffic safety world is often perceived as small because the total number of people killed is generally small. To focus on this particular issue, we need Operation Lifesaver. It’s important to the people involved, including the railways. Focusing on the problem allows us to get other resources to the table, such as local police enforcement, to make people respect railway right-of-ways and crossings. Without someone focusing on it, it would probably be ignored.” On the importance of the Advisory Committee: “The Advisory Committee is particularly important because it brings together people from the various areas. Everyone is represented: the people that run the railway, the people that use the railway, Transport Canada and for our part at the Canada Safety Council, the public or the users of the roadways that intersect the railways. It’s a committee that regroups the stakeholders in a way that doesn’t exist on other committees. It has everybody at the table from the different areas so that no one area takes precedent over the others.” On his role within the Advisory Committee: “I think my role with the Canada Safety Council allows me to bring a little bit of history to the Advisory Committee. I’ve been around for many years on this particular project. I also bring the non-profit, public oriented side to the equation, in terms of the user. There are similarities between what Operation Lifesaver is doing and what we at the Canada Safety Council do, in terms of public safety awareness campaigns and other programs we use. Operation Lifesaver can benefit from our experience there. As well, we are concerned with railway safety, so we can incorporate some of the messages and ideas that Operation Lifesaver uses into our programming. It goes both ways. It’s a win-win situation.” On the common thread between Operation Lifesaver and the Canada Safety Council and where he fits in: “My background is in behavioural psychology. Operation Lifesaver, just like with many of the programs we have at the Canada Safety Council, is about behaviour modification. How do you make people respect railway crossings or railway right-of-ways in terms of trespassing? I bring questions to the table about how to modify behaviour, how to change attitudes. That’s always been of interest to me because of my educational background.” On the success of Operation Lifesaver so far: “We’ve definitely seen an improvement in the number of collisions per billions of kilometres travelled by trains, over the lifespan of Operation Lifesaver. The statistics speak for themselves. But beyond that, I think one of the greatest successes is the awareness that people have now in and around railway crossings. For example, people have the knowledge of what to do if they get stuck on the tracks. They know that there’s a phone number to call, instead of just walking away and waiting. I think that there is a lot more awareness by the public, which has resulted in a reduction in collisions at railway crossings and a reduction in trespassing incidents.” On what’s ahead in Operation Lifesaver’s future: “For the future, the Advisory Committee is really focusing on more targeting. When we first started it was more of a blanket strategy, where we tried to educate everybody. Now, we’re trying to find the remaining primary problems so that we can focus on them with more targeted programming.” Be sure to check back next week for our next interview, this time with Jean Tierney, Senior Director of Safety, Security and Risk Management for VIA Rail Canada.