Posts Tagged ‘safety alert’

FRA’s SOFA issues safety alert

The FRA’s Switching Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) working group recently released two new documents — one on the importance of job briefings and the other a safety alert following three switching accidents that have occurred since August.

In the safety alert, SOFA warned, “the SOFA Working Group is concerned by the 159 injuries that occurred this year through August 31, 2020, and reminds all employees to remain vigilant during switching operations by not only protecting the shove movement, but also protecting themselves by avoiding close or no clearance hazards. Last, but not least, remember to always hold a job briefing whenever the job or situation changes.”

Click here to read the full safety alert. 

In their “SOFA Lifesavers – Why Job Brief?” notice, SOFA details the importance to perform job briefings and points out that one in five switching operations fatalities lacked an adequate job briefing.

Click here to read SOFA Lifesavers – Why Job Brief?

The Switching Operations Fatality Analysis working group was formed by the Federal Railroad Administration in the early 1990s in an effort to analyze switching accidents and prevent future accidents and fatalities. The group consists of representatives from the FRA, labor and management.

Click here to visit SMART-TD’s SOFA page where these and other SOFA documents are available.

Rail Safety Alert: It is time to lead

In early 1998, a Federal task force was created to examine railroad switching fatalities. Coordinated by the FRA, this working group consisted of representatives from both rail labor and carrier industry management.

For 22 months they poured over data from the 76 switching deaths that occurred between 1992 and 1998, as well as reviewed the limited data collected from similar fatal events from 1975 – 1991. Every conceivable factor involving each member’s fatality was charted, analyzed and examined in this exhaustive effort to determine the factors that contributed to our deaths as railroad workers.

On October 28, 1999, the very first Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) report containing the Findings and Recommendations of this group was made public. Click here to view the first report.

This first SOFA report contained five major railroad operating recommendations designed to prevent critical injuries and fatalities among our craft, later titled the Five Lifesavers;” the very first recommendation – SOFA number 1 began with these two sentences:

Any crew member intending to foul track or equipment must notify the locomotive engineer before such action can take place. The locomotive engineer must then apply locomotive or train brakes, have the reverser centered, and then confirm this action with the individual on the ground.”  

Sound familiar?

Now, some members have reported that they have been told to go between rail cars without establishing any such protection (3-step, Red Zone, etc.) and that they would face discipline for delaying trains if they took the time to do so.

But it so happens that over the past two decades, some members also have been disciplined and terminated over alleged failures to obtain such protection when fouling tracks.

This chaos imposed upon a good portion of our membership affects all of us. Couple this with today’s prevailing political philosophy against the supposed evils of regulatory oversight of corporations, especially concerning industrial occupational safety, and we find that protecting ourselves on the job is up to us — now more than ever!

Further, it’s a pretty safe bet that all of us know someone who was injured or worse while railroading. We all understand the hazards associated with our line of work, and we are all familiar with the old saying “the rules are written in blood.” Contrast this with those reports mentioned above that exhibit a blatant intentional disregard of safe working procedures that have been browbeaten into our conscience from our first day in railroad training, and we have no choice but to lead.

Our union’s structure is built upon our ability to look out for each other, and each local has a legislative representative (LR) who is our first line of safety.

Legislative representatives were around long before the carriers started forming company-run safety committees.

We do not oppose these safety committees, and we do rely on the carriers to live up to their responsibility for safety. But remember: We are the leaders in safety — always have been, always will be!

Your Safety Task Force encourages and urges you to work through your local LRs to ensure unsafe conditions and practices are documented, reported and corrected. Email us any question, condition, unsafe trend etc., and we will work to find a resolution.

It is time to lead, 

SMART Rail Safety Task Force

email: s_taskforce@smart-union.org
https://smart-union.org/safety/smart-rail-safety-task-force 

AAR issues safety alert: Razor blade on appliance

The Association of American Railroads issued a a safety alert for all railroads in North America after the recent discovery of a razor blade wedged into a safety appliance handhold on a covered hopper car.

The condition was discovered by a shop worker from the Anderson’s Inc. at the car repair shop located in Bay St. Louis, Miss., April 16. A photo of the condition is below.

James P. Grady, AAR assistant vice for technical services, asks that this information be widely distributed to all coworkers, contractors, customers and all who deal with freight cars.

Be on the lookout for any similar acts of vandalism.

razor_blade_photo_web

FRA warns of coveralls safety hazard

The Federal Railroad Administration has called attention to an injury where a conductor, while lifting the operating lever on a freight car, was dragged four car lengths after the lever became tangled in the hammer loop of his coveralls.

The FRA recommends cutting off the hammer loop on coveralls or securing the hammer loop to the pants leg so that it does not create a hazard.

UTU Rail Safety Alert No. 3

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:

  1. Job briefings: Ensure all crew members are present for job briefings, and focus on risk assessment.
  2. 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.
  3. On/off standing equipment: Keep hands free of other objects and maintain three point contact, always being vigilant for equipment movement.
  4. Avoid slips, trips and falls: Keep your eyes on the footpath and report any unsafe walking conditions to your local legislative representative for handling.
  5. Radio communications: Always use proper identification, provide car counts when shoving, do not engage in excessive chatter; use “over and out.”
  6. 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.
  7. Ask questions: If any uncertainty arises, take the time to ask questions. Do not take risks or assume anything.
  8. 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:

http://utu.org/utu-rail-safety-task-force/

In solidarity,

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

UTU Rail Safety Alert No. 2

This is the second in a series of safety alerts issued by the UTU Rail Safety Task Force.

The task force was appointed by International President Mike Futhey in response to a spike in railroad on-duty employee fatalities.

This safety alert focuses on the job of protecting the point while riding rail cars.

In such situations, here are facts to consider and questions to ask yourself as part of assuring you return home to your family in one piece:

  • Are you controlling the movement to really allow stopping within half the range of vision? Are you really protecting yourself?
  • Have you considered walking as a safer alternative in some cases?
  • From how far away can you see a one-inch gap in switch points? In daylight, it’s about 130 feet, at most. And the average railroad issued lantern casts light for approximately 70 feet
  • Do you know how many feet per second are you moving at 10 mph? The answer is 15-feet per SECOND; and at 8 mph, it is about 12-feet per second.
  • Now contemplate that you are protecting the point during daylight, with a single engine shoving 10 loaded lumber cars on flat grade at 15 mph. Now, you see a gapped switch. It will take you 8.6 seconds to stop.
  • If you are shoving too fast,, are you rolling the dice?
  • Now contemplate what would happen if the shoving movement at 15 mph were a crossover lined into a cut of cars, or a car left out to foul.
  • In such a situation should you consider stopping the movement and walking ahead to inspect and protect?
  • There have, recently, been a great number of shoving-related fatalities and career ending injuries in our industry. Please be careful. Always maintain situational awareness. It’s very dangerous out there, and your family wants you back home in one piece.

In solidarity,

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

For more information on the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, visit the task force’s interactive Web page by clicking:

http://utu.org/utu-rail-safety-task-force/

July 3, 2009

UTU Rail Safety Alert No. 1 (revised)

UTU Rail Safety Alert No. 1 (revised)

(Following is the first safety alert, revised June 22, issued by the UTU’s recently appointed Rail Safety Task Force.

UTU International President Mike Futhey appointed the task force in response to a sharp spike in railroad on-duty employee fatalities.

The UTU and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen also have petitioned the Federal Railroad Administration for an emergency order to prohibit the use by railroads of one-person operating crews, including in remote control operations.)

SAFETY ALERT NO. 1 (revised)

While the UTU has consistently taken exception to single-person operations, in reality it exists today. Accordingly, our members should be aware of the safest course in an unsafe situation.

UTU members working in single-person operations are strongly encouraged to question any order by a railroad official to perform any activities that may result in an injury, loss of limb or life — short of insubordination.

If your request to be relieved of such a task is denied, please immediately contact your local chairperson, general chairperson, local legislative representative or state legislative director for further handling.

In doing so, document these actions as soon as you are able, providing as much information as possible, including witnesses, times, dates, locations and names of all involved.

Following is the proper procedure to handle any types of incidents you feel cannot be safely accomplished by a one-person operation:

1) Call for help, such as a utility employee and/or the mechanical department to assist with the function while the RCO operator maintains control of the RCL transmitter (belt pack) and provides three-step protection. All blue flag rules still apply.

Following are FRA regulations relating to the functions of a “utility employee.”

A utility employee properly attached to a train or yard crew, per the requirements of 49 CFR 218.22(c)(1), (2), (3) and (4), may go on, under or between rolling equipment that the crew is called to operate to perform any of the six functions permitted by 49 CFR 218.22(c)(5), without blue signal protection.

The following are the only six functions permitted:

  1. Set or release hand brakes.
  2. Couple or uncouple air hoses and other electrical or mechanical connections.
  3. Prepare rail cars for coupling. (This means opening knuckles, adjusting drawbars, arranging air hoses etc. It does not mean making repairs, such as changing a knuckle or replacing an air hose.)
  4. Set wheel blocks or wheel chains.
  5. Conduct air brake tests to include cutting air brake components in or out and position retaining valves.
  6. Inspect, test, install, remove or replace a rear-end marking device or end-of-train device.

Under all other circumstances, a utility employee working on, under, or between railroad rolling equipment must be provided with blue signal protection in accordance with §§ 218.23 through 218.30 of Subpart B to Part 218.

2) If help is not available, notify management that you are concerned the function you are being required to perform is unsafe, and that you would prefer not to perform the function.

3) If the carrier official (supervisor, manager) insists that you perform the unsafe function anyway, tell him/her you feel this would place your personal safety in jeopardy and ask that they reconsider your request.

4) If the carrier official denies your request, perform the function as instructed, taking every safety protection available, including:

  • Making sure everyone working on both ends of the yard knows where you are, and that you are about to be on your own under or between cars on the track and without blue-flag protection.
  • Make sure the belt pack is set to prevent the locomotive from moving.
  • Secure cars on a cut located on the oppose side of where the locomotive is attached (to prevent rollback).
  • Keep a constant eye and ear out for any movement whatsoever.
  • Keep the belt pack on, to ensure the man-down feature is operable (or as near as safely possible without creating a tripping hazard), just in case it’s needed.

5) After being required to perform the function, report these occurrences to you local legislative representative, safety chairpersons and local chairpersons.

In solidarity,

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

For more information on the UTU Rail Safety Task Force and its mission, click here:

https://smart-union.org/safety/smart-rail-safety-task-force/