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FRA pilot program encourages yard workers to anonymously report near-miss accidents

Rail employees should be able to report narrowly avoided yard accidents and incidents to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) without fearing reprimands from their employers. That’s the idea behind the FRA’s Confidential Close Call Reporting Pilot Project, which launched Feb 1.

Under the pilot, workers at Union Pacific Railroad’s North Platte, Neb., yard — the nation’s largest — can anonymously report close calls to officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS). UP, the United Transportation Union and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen recently ratified an agreement with the FRA to allow workers to anonymously contact BTS.

The FRA classifies close calls as a worker lifting objects that could cause minor injuries, a train in non-signaled territory that exceeds its track authority or a crew member that fails to properly test an air brake before a train departs a yard.

A federal review team will analyze information submitted during the pilot to identify potential safety risks and recommend ways to prevent accidents. BTS will accept reports for five years.

The FRA plans to launch similar pilots at other rail yards, including BNSF Railway Co.’s facility in Lincoln, Neb., and Canadian Pacific Railway’s yard in Portage, Wis. FRA officials also are considering whether to launch a fourth pilot project with commuter railroads.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/5/2007