FRA Announces Initiative to Educate Farm Workers about Dangers near Railroad Lines

THE Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently announced a targeted outreach initiative in California designed to raise awareness among seasonal and migrant farm workers about potential hazards on and around railroad lines that cross through farms and agricultural communities.

"People are the most important resource in agriculture," said Administrator Boardman. "You should always expect a train every time you drive over a highway-rail grade crossing or take a risky shortcut across the tracks," FRA Administrator Joseph H. Boardman said. He noted that most agricultural crossings used by farm machinery operators are unmarked and on private roadways.

Boardman said that in light of several tragic incidents in California involving farm workers, farming equipment, and trains, the FRA and many state-wide and local organizations recognized the need for a safety awareness program that would specifically target the predominantly Spanish-speaking agricultural worker population. Thousands of these workers operate heavy equipment and machinery to harvest and transport crops, often crossing over railroad tracks to perform their jobs. About 42 percent of the approximately 4,400 private highway-rail crossings in California are located on farms.

As a result, an FRA Community Outreach Coalition (COC) worked together to develop an informational DVD available in both English and Spanish to educate farm workers about signs posted at a crossing, how to safely cross the tracks so that farming equipment does not get caught on the crossing, and the dangers of walking on tracks to get to work or between fields, Boardman explained.

More than 4,000 DVDs will be distributed as a training tool for agricultural employers and farm worker groups in the San Joaquin and Salinas Valleys where 25 percent of all rail-related fatalities in California took place in 2006, and which also have the highest concentration of agricultural workers in the state. The DVD also is being distributed to other areas of California, and will be available nationally and on the FRA Web site, Boardman said.

The COC partners include: Ag Safe, Amtrak, BNSF Railway, the California Highway Patrol S.A.F.E. Program, the California State University at Fresno Center for Agricultural Business, Caltrans, Madera Unified School District, San Joaquin Valley Railroad, growers, farmers, agricultural risk management companies, and several agricultural communities in the San Joaquin Valley.

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