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House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Donald Payne, Jr. (D-N.J.) have asked the Federal Railroad Administration to finalize a rulemaking that would mitigate railroad worker fatigue.
In an April 6 letter to the FRA, the congressman said that after studying the issue for decades, the FRA has a "clear understanding of the safety risks” posed by rail worker fatigue, including falling asleep, slower reaction time, attention loss, performance impairment and an increase in errors.
Individual, environmental and organizational factors — including scheduling — can contribute to worker fatigue, the lawmakers noted.
A notice of proposed rulemaking that the FRA issued in December 2020 required railroads to identify and evaluate fatigue-related rail safety hazards in their systems, determine the risk associated with those hazards and implement mitigation strategies.
The congressmen called out recently implemented attendance policies at some Class Is to address workforce shortage issues. Such policies can contribute to worker fatigue and increase the risk that safety will be compromised, they said.
"We believe that attendance policies that not only contribute to fatigue but also penalize workers for taking off when fatigued or ill simply cannot co-exist with any serious fatigue risk management program," DeFazio and Payne wrote.