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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Conductor fatality prompts FRA safety bulletin


The Federal Railroad Administration last week issued a safety bulletin announcing its investigation of a switching accident that resulted in a train crew member fatality.

The accident, which involved a Norfolk Southern Railway train conductor, resulted in the conductor’s death when the tank car he was riding to provide point protection for a switching move was struck by a dump truck at a private grade crossing at a steel plant. The conductor died of his injuries.

The FRA did not identify the railroad in the safety bulletin.

According to the agency, the dump truck stopped at the private grade crossing, then proceeded and collided with the car the conductor was riding. The incident occurred at night; the yard was lighted and the conductor had his lantern turned on. Before the accident, the conductor was in communication with the engineer via radio. The grade crossing was equipped with passive warning devices and stop signs.

Although its investigation is ongoing, the FRA noted the importance of ensuring pushing or shoving movements over grade crossings are conducted safely, to include:

• proper training, periodic oversight and application of appropriate railroad operating rules when determining whether the track is clear; and
• proper job briefings and communications between assigned crew members during pushing or shoving movements.

The agency asked railroads to review the safety bulletin with employees and reminded railroads to ensure that everyone involved in pushing or shoving movements are properly trained and qualified to conduct those operations safely; and understand what "track is clear" means related to a grade crossing.

In addition, the bulletin reminds railroads and train crew members of the Switching Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) Working Group, a voluntary, non-regulatory, workplace-safety partnership formed to identify commonalities among fatalities that occur during switching operations. SOFA findings are available here.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 3/20/2023