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FRA issues advisory to address switching operation safety


Yesterday, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a safety advisory to the rail industry that addresses the prevention of worker injuries and fatalities during switching operations.

In recent months, three rail employee fatalities occurred when workers performed tasks between rail cars and rolling equipment; over the past two years, two other fatalities occurred under the same circumstances, FRA officials said in a prepared statement. And in 2011’s first half, 37 serious injuries occurred during switching operations, according to the United Transportation Union.

The advisory calls for reviewing and revising existing switching operation safety rules as needed; ensuring “sound communication protocols” are employed to notify employees when they work between two pieces of rolling equipment; emphasizing the shared obligation and responsibility of managers and employees in following established safety rules and procedures; and encouraging “heightened situational awareness” and vigilance, according to a prepared statement.

The advisory aims to raise awareness and ensure universal compliance with safety rules designed to protect employees while working between rolling equipment, and helps reinforce the “critical importance” of following key operating procedures, FRA officials said.

“While the railroad industry and its employees have long recognized the need to take adequate safety precautions and remain alert at all times, recent incidents indicate that the workers involved either did not have enough room or time to avoid moving equipment, or were unaware that equipment was in motion,” they said.

The industry needs to achieve a workplace culture of “meticulous safety compliance,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo.

“Rail carriers must ensure a consistent and clear message throughout their organization that performing work safely takes priority over expediting a train movement,” he said. “Rail employees must also assume greater responsibility for rules compliance, ensuring their own safety while mentoring peers to do the same.”

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More News from 10/12/2011