FRA issues rail safety advisory

Posted on October 11, 2011

To help prevent injuries and fatalities from employees working between railcars during switching operations and other dangerous or unsafe workplace behaviors, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a safety advisory to the railroad industry.

In recent months, the railroad industry has experienced three employee fatalities that occurred when employees were between rolling equipment. Over the last two years, two additional employee fatalities have occurred in the same circumstances. As a result, the FRA is issuing a Safety Advisory to raise awareness and ensure universal compliance with safety rules that protect employees who must physically place themselves between rolling equipment in the normal course of their work.

While the railroad industry and its employees have long recognized the need to take adequate safety precautions and remain alert at all times, recent incidents indicate that the workers involved either did not have enough room or time to avoid moving equipment, or were unaware that equipment was in motion.

The Safety Advisory reinforces to railroads and their employees the critical importance of following key operating procedures when going between rolling equipment.

Highlights of the recommendations contained in the Safety Advisory include reviewing and revising existing switching operation safety rules as needed, ensuring the use of sound communication protocols to notify employees when going between two pieces of rolling equipment, emphasizing the shared obligation and responsibility of managers and employees in following established rules and procedures, and encouraging heightened situational awareness and vigilance.

FRA Administrator Joe Szabo briefed several railroads and labor groups regarding the Advisory to engage them in the effort. Additionally, the Association of American Railroads is holding an industry focus day to reinforce the importance of safety rules compliance, which directly compliments FRA’s recommendations in this Safety Advisory.

In 1998, at FRA’s request, a voluntary group comprised of industry stakeholders was formed to examine and address safety hazards in the yard operating environment. The Switching Operations Fatality Analysis Working Group, as it came to be known, includes representatives from the Association of American Railroads, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and the United Transportation Union. 

The Working Group has issued several reports, and notably five key “lifesaver tips,” which have been widely credited with bringing about tangible improvements in operating safety.

Click here to view a copy of the Safety Advisory.

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