FRA said it will soon increase its inspections focused on compliance with railroad operating rules, particularly those related to leaving rolling equipment so it is clear of adjacent tracks.

Track Fouling Deaths Bring First 2011 FRA Advisory

One death occurred in September 2010 in New Jersey, the other in February 2011 in Illinois.

Two fatal incidents involving railroad workers, one in September 2010 in New Jersey and the other in February 2011 in Illinois, prompted the Federal Railroad Administration to issue Safety Advisory 2011-01 to remind each railroad and railroad employees of the importance of compliance with Federal regulations and railroad operating rules regarding rolling equipment being left in a location that is clear of any adjacent tracks.

"Despite the significant reduction in train accidents caused by equipment being left in the foul of an adjacent track, a review of FRA's inspection data relative to 49 CFR 218.101 indicates a disturbing trend," the agency said in its Federal Register notice. "From calendar year (CY) 2009 to CY 2010, violations of 49 CFR 218.101 recommended for prosecution by FRA inspectors increased 124 percent. Based on the results of inspection data for the first 2 months of 2011, if trends continue, violations recommended for prosecution in 2011 versus 2010 would increase by an additional 81 percent. Whether the increase in violations is due to greater vigilance by FRA or is due to an actual increase in the number of instances where equipment is being left in such locations, FRA intends to ensure that railroads take necessary steps to prevent and reduce the potential trend indicated by the statistics noted above."

FRA said it is still investigating both incidents. The employees were conductors riding the side of rolling equipment to protect a shoving movement, and they were fatally injured when their trains struck other equipment that was left in a position to foul the shoving train's track, according to the agency. "A common factor in both accidents was that the equipment was left in a location where it fouled an adjacent track by the very employees who were involved in the incidents," it said.

It recommended that railroads:

  • Review with employees the circumstances of the two most recent fatal incidents.
  • Reinstruct supervisors and employees on the operating and safety rules applicable to leaving rolling equipment in a location that is clear of adjacent tracks, placing particular emphasis on the procedures that enable employees to identify clearance points and the means to identify locations where clearance points will not permit a person to safely ride on the side of a car.
  • Increase operational testing on operating and safety rules that pertain to leaving rolling equipment in a location that is clear of adjacent tracks.
  • Review current job briefing procedures among co-workers and determine whether the procedures are sufficient to encourage more effective communication regarding switching activities, specifically as the procedures relate to the positioning of rolling equipment so that the equipment is in a location that is clear of adjacent tracks.
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