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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday issued a safety advisory aimed at better protecting rail employees working on active tracks or rights of way under a dispatcher's supervision.The advisory stresses the need for railroads to ensure that appropriate safety redundancies are in place in the event an employee fails to comply with existing rules and procedures, FRA officials said in a press release. The advisory satisfies one National Transportation Safety Board safety recommendation related to dispatchers and partially addresses another related to redundant signal protection.The advisory includes three safety measures the FRA expects railroads to act on immediately by:• increasing employee monitoring for compliance with existing rules and procedures;• examining train dispatching systems, rules and procedures to ensure appropriate safety redundancies are in place; and• adopting electronic technology — such as enhanced employee protection, hi-rail limits compliance and train approach warning systems — that would provide appropriate safety redundancies if such redundancies aren't already in place.Until such technologies are implemented, railroads should stress the importance of dispatchers knowing roadway workers' whereabouts and work plans; forbid student dispatchers from removing blocking devices until confirmed by a supervisor; and ensure a roadway worker verifies the limits of his or her authority prior to passing any absolute signal, FRA officials said. "Clear communication is critical to keeping employees out of harm's way," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "I want railway workers to return home safely to their families after their shift, and it is the responsibility of the railroads and their employees to keep the work environment as safe as possible."
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