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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) yesterday warned rail workers of the risks of working on tracks using only a watchman or lookout to provide the train-approach warning.Issued yesterday, Safety Alert No. 066 was prompted in part by the deaths of two rail workers who died after being struck by a train while working on track in South Dakota. The NTSB investigation into the January accident found that the sight distance used by the worker serving as the lookout was about half the distance required by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).The FRA requires rail workers to be able to clear the track at least 15 seconds before a train moving at the maximum authorized speed can pass the work location safely, NTSB officials said in a press release."The accident cited in this safety alert, and other recent similar accidents, warrant a reminder to railroad employees to remain vigilant for approaching trains — whether they are the watchman/lookout or whether they are working on the tracks," said NTSB Acting Chairman Robert Sumwalt. Last week, the NTSB opened the docket for its investigation into the Jan. 17 accident in Edgemont, South Dakota. The incident occurred when a BNSF Railway Co. train struck and killed the two maintenance of way (MOW) workers and injured a third while they were trying to clear ice and snow from the track switch on main track No. 1. The train crew gave an audible warning and applied emergency braking after seeing the MOW workers, but the train was unable to stop in time, according to the NTSB's accident summary.The NTSB previously addressed railroad worker safety in a special report on Railroad and Rail Transit Roadway Worker Protection.
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