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By Steve Bolte, Publisher
Brains, trains and technology. That pretty well sums up the content that nearly 150 attendees were treated to at the second annual Rail Safety Seminar & Expo held in Orlando, Fla., April 8-10. Progressive Railroading was a platinum sponsor of the event.
Thirty-seven speakers presented technical papers ranging from human failure accidents and the workings of the human brain, to detection technology that can find rail defects before they cause accidents, to protection technology designed to prevent collisions between trains, workers and vehicles, to a host of tools and techniques to improve accident investigations. Other speakers shared best practices and successful safety tips from several international rail operations.
Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (GWI) Chief Operating Officer David Brown was the keynote speaker and underscored the event’s theme by explaining the company’s safety philosophy and the culture of zero injuries. He described some of the challenges in integrating the safety cultures of both GWI-owned and former RailAmerica-owned railroads. Brown stressed the autonomy given the various operating regions of the new GWI system and how best practices are now shared among the constituent railroads.
Randy Jamieson of Atticus Consulting Group L.L.C. described how attention-related errors were at the root of many human failure accidents. His real-world case studies of incidents caused the company to reflect on the complexity of making workers “just pay attention” amongst numerous distractions. Tim Autry of Practicing Perfection Institute Inc. built on this theme of human error prevention, providing a step-by-step workbook on practical tips for eliminating the potential for mistakes.
On the technology side, a number of speakers described new technologies designed to find defects and faults before they reach the catastrophic failure stage. Sam Williams of Beena Vision Systems Inc. described the implementation of laser-based and camera imaging devices that can measure everything from wheel profiles to coupler securement bolts.
Jason Lurz of the Maryland Transit Administration and Bud Zaouk of QinetiQ Group explained an innovative method to monitor rail neutral temperatures at the agency. And John Neumann of Datron World Communications Inc. amazed the audience with the introduction of unmanned drone technology and its adaptation to civilian monitoring problems, such as haz-mat spills, water run-off and derailments. John’s unmanned aerial device can record and transmit five-megapixel HD video and still photos from distances of several kilometers.
International rail operations were well represented at the conference, as well. Ron Mitchell of Ausenco described the challenges of developing a zero-harm culture for a new mining railway in Senegal, West Africa; and Ane Matheus and Artur Furtado from Brazil’s MRS Logistica S.A. described how the company registered a train accident rate under 1.0 per million train miles in the face of significant tonnage growth.
Also, Gary Wolf and Warren Egan of TUV Rheinland-Rail Sciences Inc. presented five different case studies of how the root cause was determined for mechanical, track and human factor-caused derailments. They stressed how modern detection technology and computer simulation analysis can quickly allow investigators to narrow down the root cause.
If you missed this year’s conference, mark your calendar for next April 7-9 when Rail Safety Seminar & Expo 2014 will convene in Orlando. For more information, visit www.railsafetyseminars.com.