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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

NTSB highlights need for better rail-worker safety


The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) used the fifth anniversary of a deadly railroad worker accident to advocate for recommendations that would address worker safety.

The accident occurred Jan. 17, 2017, in Edgemont, South Dakota, where two railroad roadway workers were struck and killed by a BNSF Railway Co. train. NTSB investigators determined the accident’s probable cause was the improper use of train approach warning by the BNSF roadway work group to provide on-track safety.

Improving rail-worker safety is one of the NTSB's 2021-2022 “Most Wanted” list of transportation safety improvements. The latest Bureau of Transportation Statistics data shows 456 employee on-duty fatalities since 1997. In 2020, the NTSB investigated eight accidents involving railroad and transit worker fatalities.

Following the NTSB’s investigation into the 2017 accident, the agency issued seven recommendations — four to the Federal Railroad Administration and three to BNSF.

"This tragedy unfortunately exposed the many issues that still need to be addressed to protect train crews, maintenance-of-way employees and mechanical workers from getting killed or injured," said NTSB Board Member Thomas Chapman in a press release. "If adopted, our recommendations will help to mitigate the risks associated with this work and provide better protection to workers across all railroads.”

Of the seven safety recommendations, all remain open and five are open with unacceptable action. The recommendations issued to the Federal Railroad Administration and BNSF address safety issues including improper use of train approach warning, deficient watchman/lookout equipment and incomplete roadway worker on-track safety briefings.

The final report is available here.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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