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FRA, unions unveil 'risk reduction' safety program


Yesterday, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and rail labor unions launched the Risk Reduction Program (RRP), a "risk-based approach" to identifying and correcting safety issues.

The initiative — which will supplement current federal regulations, inspection requirements, and other compliance and enforcement functions — calls for developing "innovative" methods, processes and technologies to address train accident and employee injury risk factors, the FRA said.

RRP encourages voluntary participation by railroads and workers on projects targeting specific risk categories, such as confidential close-call reporting systems, peer-to-peer accident prevention strategies and fatigue risk management programs. In addition, the program encourages railroads to adopt technology — such as trackside train-monitoring equipment — to identify potential safety problems.

The FRA, which recently sponsored several risk-reduction pilot projects, is establishing RRP as a formal agency safety program, FRA Administrator Joseph Boardman said at a Rail Safety Summit held yesterday in Washington, D.C. In addition to rail management and labor input, the FRA plans to obtain public comments on the program in fall.

"Fixing something after it breaks or writing rule-violation notices is increasingly unlikely to result in significant additional gains in rail safety," said Boardman in a prepared statement.

During the safety summit, the FRA also presented awards to Union Pacific Railroad, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and United Transportation Union for partnering with the FRA Office of Railroad Development to implement two risk-reduction demonstration projects.

A Changing At-Risk Behavior (CAB) project resulted in an 80 percent reduction of "targeted behavior" in less than two years, the FRA said. And the ongoing Safety Through Employees Exercising Leadership (STEEL) project so far has eliminated more than 75 "safety barriers," according to the agency.