This form will become the primary tool to report and collect data concerning unsafe working conditions, including COVID-19 issues, from all members. Organizational information such as Craft, Local, Carrier, State Legislative Director and General Committee are loaded based on a member’s selection using defined database values, ensuring an accurate submission so that the officers responsible for acting on the report are directly and timely informed.
Members are presented a default list of safety hazards (including COVID-19) to choose along with identifying the state and location of the unsafe condition. Additionally, the form will dynamically update based on the members’ input, creating a customized report. After submission, an automated email to the General Chairperson and State Legislative Director with jurisdiction is sent as an initial notification. Full details of the Safety Condition Report are then accessed by these officers via the TD Connect portal along with printing and exporting capabilities for further collaboration with Local officers so that the unsafe conditions can be addressed.
It is important to note that the data collected by this Safety Condition Report and the information within are kept and used solely within our SMART Union computer system and are used by SMART-TD officers to assist in addressing the issues presented by members.
“Membership safety and well-being is a founding principal of this Union, but we cannot assist without being properly informed of the unsafe issues facing our fellow brothers and sisters.” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson stated. “These reports are to enhance our safety efforts as many carriers lack proper and effective reporting mechanisms. Our SMART Constitution lists safety as our local legislative representatives’ primary mission, stating ‘They shall report to their Locals regarding the handling of all alleged unsafe or unsanitary working conditions found to exist, or reported to them, within their jurisdiction. They shall undertake to correct such conditions through appropriate measures consistent with the local and national policies of the Transportation Division.’ Therefore, we ask that you also forward this information as soon as possible to your local legislative representative or other SMART Union officer for proper handling. If you are unsure who they are or how to contact them, please contact our office.
“It is imperative that we all accept the personal responsibility to properly document known unsafe conditions, acts and security concerns. If more people would take the time to do this we could, over time, address most of the long-standing concerns we have. Without documentation, nothing will ever change — the issues and concerns will continue to remain and often grow until a very unfortunate situation such as an injury, accident or fatality brings to light what many knew was a problem long ago but failed to address.”
The union’s chief of staff hopes that the use of this form brings hazards that have been taken for granted or tolerated by workers to light.
“Sadly, we hear one particular scenario too often,” SMART-TD Chief of Staff Jerry Gibson said. “Someone says, ‘That has been an issue for a long time’ or ‘Everyone knows that is a problem’ at a particular property. Yet everyone assumes that someone else has written the unsafe condition up and unfortunately, no one has. The issue remains and the carriers use that against us by stating the very same thing — ‘That has been like that forever, and no one has said anything or taken issue with it.’
“This online reporting process is here to change that. Your union’s leadership wants to raise our safety standards. The carriers will no longer be allowed to dictate our level of personal safety … enough is enough. Only when we, as a collective group, choose to properly address our issues and concerns can we expect others to comply with those demands. It is the charge of the carrier to provide us with the proper training, security and safe work environment while doing so … and we will hold them accountable.”
The Safety Condition Report is accessible directly from the SMART-TD home page as both a banner and as a menu item — look for the blinking yellow caution signal.
“Please assist us with assisting you,” President Ferguson said. “All of our members deserve safe working conditions on the job and to return home safely. If there is an issue you want to report — report it.”
The safety coordinator to the SMART Transportation Division Designated Legal Counsel has updated a pair of publications that offer comprehensive surveys of federal laws that cover TD members who work in the rail industry and who work as bus operators.
“What Every Railroader Should Know About the Federal Railroad Safety Laws and Regulations,” by Larry Mann, has been updated with changes that have occurred since the 2014 version’s release and contains detailed information about how federal railroad safety law pertains to railroad workers.
“What Every Bus Driver Should Know,” also by Mann, does the same for bus members and is essential reading for TD members concerned about how the law protects them.
Mann, who has served as DLC rail safety coordinator since the position was created in 2008, has extensive legal experience in the transportation industry and has given SMART Transportation Division permission to distribute both the updated rail book and the updated bus book via PDF on the TD website.
To better understand and evaluate the use of certain technologies implemented by carriers, SMART Transportation Division is seeking information regarding the operation of the technologies such as Positive Train Control, Trip Optimizer/Leader and others.
In order for our organization to formulate a plan to protect members and the general public and to ensure the safety of the nation’s infrastructure, we are asking members to provide information when incidents or events occur that involve these technologies.
“By reporting these events, we can track these instances and find any trends that may be occurring with these technologies,” said Jared Cassity, alternate director — East for the SMART TD National Safety Team and Kentucky’s state legislative director.
Reports submitted through this form go to union safety leadership for collection. These reports are not a substitute for filling out a report to a carrier or to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
A notice published in the Federal Register in late September announced that the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) would be rechartered for two years after a period of dormancy.
RSAC advises the administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and makes recommendations on matters relating to railroad safety, resulting in a process that allows stakeholders, including labor and industry representatives, to collaborate before proposed rules are submitted.
The committee consists of 40 representatives from 29 member organizations, including SMART Transportation Division. It last met in May 2017, according to the RSAC website, and has been in existence since 1996.
A notice providing details about the committee’s next meeting has yet to be posted the RSAC site.
On Aug. 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Federal Railroad Administration will host a seminar on drug testing policy and rail safety in Kansas City, Mo.
The seminar dives into 2017 drug testing amendments and a pair of amendments to safety rules created in November 2014 and December 2017. It will be held at the National Weather Service Training Center Auditorium, 37220 NW 101st, Kansas City, MO 64153. A government-issued ID is required to enter the building. There is no charge to attend.
The Switching Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) Working Group in June issued its latest updates on switching fatalities and severe injuries for the entirety of 2017 and for the first quarter of 2018.
According to SOFA, there were three switching-related fatalities and nine amputations as a result of switching accidents in 2017. There were 68 “severe injuries,” which SOFA defines as potentially life-threatening; having a high likelihood of permanent loss of function, permanent occupational limitation or other permanent disability; likely to result in significant work restrictions and resulting from a high-energy impact to the human body.
The number of severe injuries and amputations in 2017 exceeded 2016’s totals of 47 and seven, respectively.
SOFA reported that train accident reports increased to 1,686 in 2017 over the 1,671 in 2016. However, SOFA said that human factor accidents decreased to 639 in 2017 from the 643 reported in 2016.
In the first quarter of 2018, SOFA said there were two amputations, 20 severe injuries and no switching fatalities. SOFA reported that there have been 416 train accidents and 154 human factor accidents thus far in 2018.
SOFA is a voluntary, nonregulatory railroad safety partnership consisting of representatives of SMART Transportation Division, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Association of American Railroads (AAR) and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) that has a goal of zero switching fatalities achieved through education and nonpunitive interactions.
Click here to go to our SOFA page and read SOFA’s full reports.
BOSTON – 7 News Boston reported that the Massachusetts state legislature recently mandated that all duck boats must be operated by two-person crews. The measure came in response to a growing number of duck boat-related injuries and fatalities. Read the complete story here.
Two-person crews on duck boats makes sense – and common sense also dictates that for safety’s sake, all freight and commuter trains should also be operated by two-person crews.
Click here to voice your support of HR 233 – The Safe Freight Act, that mandates two-person crews on all freight trains in the U.S.
SMART TD and BLET submitted joint comments to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Thursday, March 16, on their proposal to require security training for employees of higher-risk freight railroad carriers, transportation agencies, passenger railroad carriers and over-the-road bus companies.
TSA’s proposed rule will require companies to train employees performing security-sensitive functions on how to observe, assess and respond to terrorist-related threats or incidents.
SMART TD and BLET said in their comments:
“We support stronger security training requirements for surface transportation employees who serve a critical role in the movement of passengers and commercial goods nationwide. Train operators in particular are responsible for the movement of hazardous materials, which can be a high-risk target for terrorist attacks.
“In 2014, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a final rule which established minimum training standards for all safety-related railroad employees, as required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. We urge TSA to engage with the FRA to implement improvements to those training standards and make sure that both sets of standards don’t conflict with one another.”
The Portland Press Herald reported that as amphibious vehicles (duck boats), designed to traverse land and water, have increased in popularity over the years, so has the number of accidents and fatalities involving these complicated vehicles. Advocates for increased safety measures are calling for mandated two-person crews on all duck boats. Some amphibious vehicle companies have voluntarily instated policies that mandate two-person crews at all times. Since rail carriers can’t be counted on to do the same, we need to continue all efforts to pass HR 233.
ABCNews.go.com reported that federal regulators are concerned about the lack of progress from NYC commuter rail in implementing potentially lifesaving Positive Train Control (PTC) technology. “The nation’s three busiest commuter railroads — which together serve nearly 1 million riders in the New York City area each day — continue to lag behind their smaller West Coast counterparts in installing sophisticated train-control technology that’s seen as an antidote to crashes involving speeding and other human factors…” Read the complete article here.
In light of the deadly NJT September 29th transit crash in Hoboken, NJ, that killed one person and injured more than 100, U.S. Senator Cory Booker, the top-ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate subcommittee that oversees passenger rail safety, and U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, the top-ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate mass transit subcommittee, submitted a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Anthony Foxx , calling for DOT to investigate the long list of safety violations, accidents and apparent systemic failures that have plagued the NJT in recent years. The NTSB is currently investigation the crash. Read the complete article posted in NJ.com, here.
On Friday, October 14, 2016, SMART Union united with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED) and the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), in a joint statement to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) that voiced their collective opposition to a recent CSX petition requesting permission from the FRA to remove approximately 125 signals from a stretch of track in Michigan.
Citing reasons of crew safety and public safety, SMART Transportation Division (SMART TD) President, John Previsich and SMART TD Michigan State Legislative Director, Jerry Gibson, worked with SMART and SMART TD’s legislative offices and and leaders from the BLET, BWED and BRS in requesting that the FRA deny CSX’s request.
“Considering the number of residents, homes, schools and churches along this line, and the safety risk involved if these signals are removed, we oppose this request and ask the FRA to deny this wavier,” stated SMART Transportation Division President, John Previsich.
Gibson emphasized safety concerns and also connected the dots between the outcome of the presidential election and future decisions made by the FRA and other president-appointed federal industry boards.
“The SMART TD Michigan State Legislative Board opposition is based on the reason signal systems are put into place: Employee and public safety. As a former qualified engineer and conductor on this line, the territory has a winding path with poor long distance sightlines, making the operable signal system that is currently in place critical to crew and public safety.
“While many may not see the direct correlation between this issue and voting for those candidates endorsed by the SMART TD National Legislative office and State boards, it is a great example. The President of the United States appoints the Director of the Federal Railroad Administration, Surface Transportation Board, Railroad Retirement Board, Department of Labor, and Department of Transportation, to name a few – all of which have the power to determine if these requests are approved or denied,” he stated.
Gibson also added: “If we cast our vote in the wrong direction, the outcome of many issues that directly affect rail labor and their families with be compromised,”
To read the joint labor statement to the FRA, please click here.