FRA Issues Advisory to Address Switching Operation Safety

In recent months, the railroad industry has experienced three employee fatalities that occurred when employees were caught between rolling equipment.

Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo on Tuesday issued a safety advisory to the railroad industry to help prevent injuries and fatalities of employees working between rail cars during switching operations and other dangerous or unsafe workplace behaviors.

In recent months, the railroad industry has experienced three employee fatalities that occurred when employees were caught between rolling equipment. Over the last two years, two additional employee fatalities have occurred in the same circumstances. As a result, 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.

“We must achieve a workplace culture of meticulous safety compliance throughout the industry,” Szabo said. “Rail carriers must ensure a consistent and clear message throughout their organization that performing work safely takes priority over expediting a train movement. Rail employees must also assume greater responsibility for rules compliance, ensuring their own safety while mentoring peers to do the same.”

FRA understands that multiple factors can contribute to fatal events, the agency noted. 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 railroad companies 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 Szabo briefed several railroads and labor groups regarding the Advisory to engage them in the effort.

Click here to view a copy of the Safety Advisory.

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