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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA issues advisory on flat switching, 'kicking' operations

Amit Bose is adminstrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.
Photo –


The Federal Railroad Administration this week issued a safety bulletin stemming from its ongoing investigation of a switching accident that resulted in the amputation of a train crew member’s leg.

The incident occurred Sept. 1, when a switching crew of a locomotive and conductor was preparing a train to serve an industry, according to the advisory. The crew lined the 12-car train toward a storage track and "kicked" one empty hopper car onto that track.

The crew then pulled out of the storage track, and the conductor realigned the switch for the industry track to spot three of the remaining 11 cars. As the train started moving onto the industry track, the conductor riding point to protect the shove move noticed the empty hopper car they had previously "kicked" rolling back toward them. After instructing the engineer to stop the train, via radio, the conductor dismounted and rushed toward the hopper car.

In his attempt to apply the car’s handbrake, the conductor fell in the gauge of the rail where the car ran over the lower part of his body, resulting in the amputation of his left leg and severe injury to the other leg. The conductor had less than two years of railroad experience.

Although the FRA's investigation is continuing, the agency issued the advisory to remind railroads to ensure switching operations are conducted safely, including:
• Operating rules and protocols adequately address hazards associated with "kicking" cars;
• Employees receive adequate field training to enable them to recognize risks associated with improperly secured kicked cars and understand proper procedures for responding to a rolling car, mounting equipment, and applying handbrakes safely; and
• All employees are reminded of the importance of proper securement protocols for unattended equipment, highlighting the risks linked to unintended movements of unsecured equipment.

To read the entire advisory, click here.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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