Union, Railroad Warn Workers and Trespassers of Hazards

Union Pacific Railroad, which is urging hunters to stay away from its tracks, says its police officers are now stenciling "no trespassing" in white paint on the rails as a reminder to stay off railroad property.

Both railroad employees and people who may be tempted to hunt on or near railroad tracks are being warned about the hazards they face. The United Transportation Union, which represents thousands of railroad workers, already has recorded nine members killed so far this year, one more than the eight killed in on-duty accidents in both 2009 and 2010. The most recent death listed on the union's 2011 memorials online page was Dennis A. Hemme, 59, a CSX conductor who was crushed Sept. 8 during a mainline shove of a stalled train near Botkins, Ohio, according to the website.

The UTU Rail Safety Task Force’s 2011 Third Quarter update said three switching fatalities had been recorded this year as of Sept. 5, which was an improvement from the seven switching fatalities at the same point last year. But severe injuries increased slightly during the first half of 2011, to 37, versus 35 during the first half of 2010, the task force reported. The update tallies switching fatalities each year since 1992 and lists best practices to prevent them. Historically, such fatalities are high in September and October, it shows.

Omaha-based Union Pacific on Sept. 21 asked hunters "to resist the temptation to hunt on railroad property this season. Wildlife will migrate and feed along the edges of freshly harvested fields, making these areas prime hunting spots. With many fields adjacent to Union Pacific tracks, hunters find it very tempting to hunt on or near the tracks," the company said in a release that noted 442 people died and 388 were injured in 2010 while trespassing on railroad property in the United States, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

"Too many people have been injured or killed trespassing on railroad property over the years. As part of our UP CARES initiative, we want to remind hunters that walking on or near railroad tracks is extremely dangerous because you never know when a train will come along," Dennis Jenson, UP assistant vice president-chief of police, said in the news release.

UP said its police officers are stenciling “no trespassing” in white paint on the rails as a reminder to stay off railroad property. "It can take a mile or more to stop a train, and, by the time a locomotive engineer sees you on the track, it is too late to stop," said Dale Bray, the railroad's director of public safety. "Locomotives and rail cars overhang the tracks by at least three feet on either side of the rail. If you are too close to the tracks, you can be hit by the locomotive or a rail car," Bray said.

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