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Rail News: Safety

Recent fatalities signal need for workers to be more vigilant about safety, FRA's Monro says

During the past two months, seven railroad employees died on the job, including six workers involved in switching operations. Although year-to-date accident/incident data shows rail safety is improving compared with last year, the rash of fatalities demonstrates a need for more safety awareness, especially when switching cars, said acting Federal Railroad Administrator Betty Monro in an "urgent message" released yesterday.

In a recently released report, the FRA's Switching Operation Fatality Analysis (SOFA) Working Group stated that 124 switching fatalities occurring between 1992 and 2003 were potentially preventable if the worker had followed SOFA's five operating recommendations: secure equipment before taking action; communicate before taking action; protect employees from moving equipment; discuss safety before beginning a job or changing a project; and mentor less experienced workers.

"Two operating recommendations appear to be more powerful than the working group believed when it released its first report in October 1999," said Monro. "Job briefings before switching operations begin and when the nature of work changes, and mentoring of less experienced employees are important components of crew resource management."

Comprising representatives from FRA, the Association of American Railroads, United Transportation Union, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, the working group reviews fatal switching incidents and develops safety recommendations designed to prevent injuries and fatalities.

The SOFA group is developing recommendations to eliminate severe injuries, such as amputations, bone fractures and severe burns. Group members believe the five operating recommendations and switching operation awareness will help reduce those types of injuries.

"With business on the upturn and many new employees entering the workforce, keeping the focus on our jobs is more important than ever," said Monro. "We must continue to remain vigilant about our personal safety, the safety of others and the safety of the equipment we use."

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More News from 11/4/2004