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Rail News: Labor

UTU can spread switching safety message to local levels, FRA's Rutter says

During a recent meeting, Federal Railroad Administrator Allan Rutter asked United Transportation Union International President Byron Boyd Jr. to expand the two organization's safety partnership, according to a news item posted on UTU's Web site.

Although UTU has helped reduce train and engine-service worker fatalities and serious injuries by promoting Federal Railroad Administration's Switching Operation Fatality Analysis (SOFA) at national and state levels, the union can help the administration further reduce fatalities and injuries by advocating SOFA cooperation at the general committee and local levels, Rutter said.

"Despite the fact that 2003 saw the lowest number of employee fatalities on record and an overall decline in the number of train accidents, there were still 10 fatal switching incidents that occurred," he said. "We need the help of the entire UTU leadership to drive home the message of safe switching practices to the thousands of UTU members who work on our nation's railroads every day."

UTU has supported SOFA since the program began in February 1998, Rutter said. Comprising representatives from FRA, UTU, Association of American Railroads, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, and American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, a SOFA working group reviews fatal switching incidents, and develops safety recommendations designed to prevent injuries and fatalities.

"UTU representatives played a vital role in developing the five common sense recommendations for [preventing] fatal switching accidents … [and] took the lead role in publicizing SOFA's lifesaving tips," said Rutter. "But in light of recent trends, we feel safety may be significantly improved if a greater number of people become involved in the SOFA effort."

Boyd pledged to involve UTU's "legislative and protective departments in this worthwhile and productive effort."

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More News from 1/19/2004