Typical close calls in railroading are leaving pieces of equipment unsecured, improper blocking, operating trains beyond track authority, or violating operating rules.

Railroad Close Call Reporting System Wins Praise

The confidential system for employee reports of near-misses is based on NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System. It is winning praise from labor and management during its pilot phase.

Both the United Transportation Union and Union Pacific are praising the Federal Railroad Administration's Confidential Close Calls Reporting System, which is still in a multi-year pilot phase. The system, which is modeled on NASA's Aviation Safety Reporting System, allows employees to voluntarily and anonymously report close call incidents that could have resulted in an accident or injury without fear of disciplinary action.

The NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System is based at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. This program has existed for 34 years and receives about 56,000 safety reports annually from pilots, air traffic controllers, dispatchers, mechanics, flight attendants, and other employees.

Typical close calls in railroading are leaving pieces of equipment unsecured, improper blocking, operating trains beyond track authority, or violating operating rules.

Amtrak recently joined the FRA system, which is called C3RS. Other entities involved in it are FRA, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Union Pacific Railroad's North Platte Service Unit, Canadian Pacific Railway's Chicago Area Service Unit, and New Jersey Transit. The UP program is in its fifth year. The union reported Dec. 14 that Union Pacific says the analysis of data from the program that has been done by its C3RS peer review team "has spurred systemwide change," including "reformatting track warrants so they are easier to read," and has increased communications between employees and management.

"Non-punitive reporting produces safety data that could not otherwise be obtained while helping to identify and mitigate risks before another serious incident occurs," UTU International Vice President John Previsich said in the report. He has been helping to design and implement C3RS pilot programs, according to UTU, which represents about 125,000 active and retired railroad, bus, and mass transit workers.

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