(The following is a security alert from the UTU’s Rail Safety Task Force.)
Rail security remains a constant threat to the nation’s railroads and our members. President Futhey wrote of this concern in a recent leadership message, “We need training to spot trouble.”
Based on recent events, the UTU’s Rail Safety Task Force strongly encourages all railroaders to remain vigilant in our effort to recognize potential threats.
That message was hammered home at a recent FRA hazardous materials seminar in Hot Springs, Ark. The hazardous materials specialist told a chilling story of a recent routine inspection of a rail yard.
The FRA specialist was approached by a conductor and asked, “Are you back again? We were just inspected a few days ago.”
The FRA specialist inquired about the suspicious individual’s description and what happened. Immediately, he realized that the FRA had no one in the region that fit the description.
The facts became more chilling.
When the possible terrorist was asked by a crew member as to whom he was, the individual flipped out a badge and quickly closed it without giving the crew member an opportunity to inspect it. The suspicious individual went as far as to inquire about the chemicals vinyl chloride and ammonia nitrate — if there were any cars in the yard with those chemicals, and the frequency they were there.
With rail crews subjected to physical abuse, robberies and threats from public trespassers, the potential for a breach in security seems to be trending in the wrong direction.
The UTU Rail Safety Task Force reminds our members to focus on the following:
KNOW YOUR WORKSITE: Know your area officers, co-workers, FRA and TSA inspectors — if not personally, at least by name or face.
If a person or vehicle looks out of place, and you are unsure of who an individual is, or if suspicions arise for any reason, follow your railroad’s guidelines to ensure that person remains on the property. In many cases this may involve contacting the proper authority to handle the threat.
All federal agents are required to present proper identification upon request. In cases of trespassers, caution should always be taken and it may be best to let those authorized to handle such situations handle them.
MAINTAIN SITUATIONAL AWARENESS: Be aware of suspicious individuals and items. We generally travel and work the same areas. If something looks out of place, report it immediately. Do not leave a potential threat for others to handle.
Be aware of high risk locations, such as fuel facilities, hazardous materials cars, radio towers, and dimly lit areas. Make sure to inspect safety appliances and use them if they are required.
Inspect all locks, gates, doors and derails that are used as safety devices, and report those that are found to be damaged or missing to the proper authority.
As always, our first line of defense is ensuring that any issues that may impair our personal safety are properly handled in an expedient manner. Those on the ballast see or hear it first, and it is those on the ballast who are most in harm’s way.
For more information on the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, click below:
The 24 days between Dec. 22 and Jan. 14 have proven the most deadly for railroad workers. More fatalities and career-ending injuries occur during this calendar period than any other.
With the holiday season upon us, we owe it to ourselves and our families to keep the season joyous and free from needless sorrow. Safety is a gift we keep giving our families.
Returning home to our families in one piece requires more than simply saying, “Be careful out there.”
Since 1998, the Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) working group — comprised of representatives from labor, management and the FRA — has devoted itself to bringing railroaders home to their families in one piece.
SOFA’s five lifesaving tips can save yours, as they have saved countless other railroaders from death and career-ending injuries:
Secure all equipment before action is taken.
Protect employees against moving equipment.
Discuss safety at the beginning of a job or when work changes.
Communicate before action is taken.
Mentor less experienced employees to perform service safely.
The SOFA working group also warns of special switching hazards:
Free rolling rail cars
Exposure to mainline trains
Tripping, slipping or falling
Unexpected movement of cars
Adverse environmental conditions
Motor vehicles or loading devices
Drugs and alcohol
UTU members participating in the SOFA working group are Louisiana State Legislative Director Gary Devall, Minnesota State Legislative Director Phil Qualy and Kansas Assistant State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo.
In the 17 years since 1992, only four have been fatality free, and almost 12 percent of all on-duty employee fatalities have occurred during the 24 days between Dec. 22 and Jan. 14.
Staying vigilant and heightening your situational awareness — by following the SOFA working groups life-saving tips, by being aware of special switching hazards, and by encouraging increased communication among crew members, limiting task overload and focusing on the task at hand — is the most effective way to return home to your families in one piece.
And remember: almost as many injuries and deaths involve employees with many years of seniority as new hires.
Let’s not permit ourselves to drift into mental vacations. As the SOFA working group says, warnings “can be viewed as numbers on a page, but the loss of a railroad employee is real, and brings sadness to their family, co-employees and friends.”
The UTU Rail Safety Task Force extends a happy holiday greeting to all members and their families.
For more information on the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, and to communicate with the task force, click below:
Career-ending personal injuries and fatalities have continued to increase in the rail industry.
To educate members on the circumstances of these incidents, and in attempts to avoid them in the future, the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, appointed by International President Mike Futhey, urges that each of you continue to look out for each other and forward your ideas and concerns about workplace safety to them so they may address them.
Interactive communication and “looking out for each other” is imperative to bringing us all home from work in one piece.
To ensure we all go home to our families in one piece, the UTU Rail Safety Task Force asks for a 100 percent commitment to rules compliance and to the following eight activities:
Job briefings: Ensure all crew members are present for job briefings, and focus on risk assessment.
Situational awareness: Constantly be aware of your surroundings and maintain situational awareness to avoid risks associated with the required tasks and work within the limits of your capabilities.
On/off standing equipment: Keep hands free of other objects and maintain three point contact, always being vigilant for equipment movement.
Avoid slips, trips and falls: Keep your eyes on the footpath and report any unsafe walking conditions to your local legislative representative for handling.
Radio communications: Always use proper identification, provide car counts when shoving, do not engage in excessive chatter; use “over and out.”
Put safety first: Performing a task safety is more important than the time it takes to complete it. The only “good move” is one done 100 percent by the rules.
Ask questions: If any uncertainty arises, take the time to ask questions. Do not take risks or assume anything.
Be in charge of your own safety: Do not let others set YOUR level of safety. Report harassment and intimidation.
For more information on the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, and to communicate with the task force, visit the task force’s interactive Web page by clicking:
UTU Rail Safety Task Force Greg Hynes, UTU assistant Arizona state legislative director Steve Evans, UTU Arkansas state legislative director Jerry Gibson, UTU Michigan state legislative director Scott Olson, UTU Arizona state legislative director