Posts Tagged ‘SOFA’

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.

SAFETY: The gift we give our families that should never be compromised

As president of the SMART Transportation Division and on behalf of General President Joseph Sellers, I want to wish every member happy holidays. We are all one family, and this season is a time when we have our loved ones in our thoughts and on our minds. As your president, your well-being, safety and job security are always on my mind, and I take those responsibilities seriously. Please know that I strive daily to make a difference in protecting you both on and off the job.

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 give our families each and every day, and nothing should be more important.

The twenty-four days between Dec. 22 and Jan. 14 have historically proven to be the deadliest for railroad workers. More fatalities and career-ending injuries occur during this calendar period than any other. Unfortunately, this rang true in 2018, when member Jeffery Hague of Local 495 lost his life on Dec. 30, 2018.

Regrettably, we have had a sixty-six (66%) percent increase in switching fatalities in 2019 compared to 2018. These include members Travis “Bowie” Andrepont of Local 1947, Chris Seidl of Local 1227 and most recently Curtis C. “C.C.” McConihay of Local 1386. All lost during rail switching operations. Sadly, all of our fallen members families will never feel the same joy of this season again.

Making a difference in your safety as a bus operator or a railroader has to start with both you and I, as it will take all of us actively working together in this union to succeed. We are already moving forward with plans to change how we all work together on safety-related issues, including the reporting of unsafe conditions, training, and the prevention of injuries.

However, it is imperative that we hear from members in the field about unsafe conditions, be it bus or rail, so we know where to deploy our own investigators and experts to help.

The SMART-TD website will be going through a series of updates in the near future. We will be updating our successful technology failure report and deploying an online unsafe condition and close-call report along with a few others to get you and our office connected on these issues. This will be explained in more detail in a forthcoming announcement.

As a reminder, I have listed the five life-saving tips that the Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) working group — comprised of representatives from labor, management and the FRA — have promoted in efforts to bring railroaders home safely to their families. With the recent rollout of Precision Scheduled Railroading, and productivity and profits placed directly ahead of employee safety, it is my belief that the focus on these life-saving rules and practices has been lost from a management standpoint. Therefore, I would ask that you take time to review them now and incorporate them into your daily work routine, especially in this most-dangerous season.

SOFA’s five life-saving tips can save yours, as they have saved countless other railroaders from death and career-ending injuries:

  1. Secure all equipment before action is taken.
  2. Protect employees against moving equipment.
  3. Discuss safety at the beginning of a job or when work changes.
  4. Communicate before action is taken.
  5. Mentor less experienced employees to perform service safely.

The SOFA working group also warned of special switching hazards:

  • Close clearances
  • Shoving movements
  • Unsecured cars
  • Free rolling rail cars
  • Exposure to mainline trains
  • Tripping, slipping or falling
  • Unexpected movement of cars
  • Adverse environmental conditions
  • Equipment defects
  • Motor vehicles or loading devices
  • Drugs and alcohol

On behalf of all your international officers, I once again wish you a blessed, safe and happy holiday season.

Fraternally,

 
 
 
 
 

President, Transportation Division

SOFA releases fatality and severe injury report for the 4th quarter 2018

The Federal Railroad Administration’s Switching Operations Fatality Analysis working group (SOFA) – which has three SMART TD representatives – has released its switching fatality and severe injury update for the fourth quarter of 2018.

SOFA reported a total of 17 severe injuries for the fourth quarter, bringing 2018’s annual total to 68. Of those severe injuries reported in the quarter, one resulted in amputation. None of the incidents were fatal.

For the year, there were eight amputations. When combined with the first three SOFA quarterly reports, the group counted three switching-related fatalities in 2018. SMART TD had seven member fatalities last year.

In 2017, SOFA reported 68 severe injuries and nine amputations.

Click here to see the full report.

SOFA releases injury tally for May

A monthly report from the Switching Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) Working Group reported six severe injuries to railroad workers during May 2018, including one amputation.

SOFA Working Group defines a severe injury as FRA-reportable injuries to train and engine service employees that have a clear and verifiable diagnosis and meet one or more of the following four criteria: (1) potentially life threatening; (2) high likelihood of permanent loss of function, permanent occupational limitation, or other permanent disability; (3) likely to result in significant work restrictions; or (4) result from a high energy impact to the human body.

The amputation to a leg or foot occurred in Missouri when a worker was trying to cross on a moving car and fell from it at an industrial location.

Four of the other five severe injuries reported by SOFA were fractures that came as a result of falls, while the fifth severe injury was a fracture that came as the result of an alleged assault by a passenger.

The SOFA Working Group is a voluntary, nonregulatory railroad safety partnership consisting of representatives from 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.

Read an earlier story about SOFA’s first quarter report and its 2017 annual report.

Visit our SOFA page and read SOFA’s full reports.

SOFA issues latest updates on switching accidents

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.

SOFA warns of winter-related safety issues

SOFA LogoThe upcoming months are historically the most deadly time of year for railroad workers, with more career-ending injuries than any other period of the year.

In February 1998, a Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) working group, with representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), labor and management, was formed at the request of the FRA to review employee fatalities and to develop recommendations for reducing fatalities in switching operations.

It is a voluntary, non-regulatory, workplace-safety partnership that looks for commonalities among the fatalities that occur during switching operations.

SOFA consultant Dr. David Skinner, who has been a part of working group since its inception, has compiled a summary notice to both railroads and rail crews currently experiencing winter-related conditions. The notice can be viewed here.

As the onset of winter is upon us, please take note of the following safety measures to help avoid a career-ending injury or loss of life during the winter months:

  • Be sure winter clothing does not restrict movement, or degrade hearing and vision.
  • Identify any winter-related conditions affecting safety. For example, ice can cause derailments. Ice, snow and mud can cause falling. Snow can muffle sound and reduce visibility.
  • Adjust productivity expectations based on darkness and weather.
  • Discuss winter conditions in safety briefings and post any weather-related concerns on bulletin boards.
  • Do not lose situational awareness, no matter the other circumstances in your family or personal life.

Minnesota State Legislative Director Phillip Qualy (650) and Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo (1503) represent the SMART Transportation Division in the SOFA group.

“Please review the bulletin from Dr. Skinner and share that information with your fellow employees. It’s all about worker safety. The goal of SOFA is zero railroad fatalities,” Qualy said.

As always, keep in mind SOFA’s recommended five life-savers:

  1. Secure all equipment before action is taken.
  2. Protect employees against moving equipment.
  3. Discuss safety at the beginning of a job or when work changes.
  4. Communicate before action is taken.
  5. Mentor less experienced employees to perform service safely.

SOFA urges diligence in late winter conditions

Representatives of the SMART Transportation Division’s Switching Operations Fatality Analysis Working Group (SOFA) urge railroad operating employees in northern states to exercise a heightened level of caution while working in late winter weather conditions. 

Minnesota State Legislative Director Phillip Qualy and Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo remind all train crews to be aware of freezing and thawing of snowpack and muddy conditions within the coming weeks.

With a significant snowpack, the increasing angle of sunlight rays and evening hours that remain well below freezing temperatures, the risk of derailment is significant due to ice build-up in rail flange ways.

“Switchrod channels that do not drain or are not cleared of ice pose a risk for overexertion and injury. Light overnight snows can obstruct hazards and create unsafe walking conditions,” Qualy said.

“Train operating crews must not ride cars into permanent or temporary close-clearance areas under any circumstance. As an additional reminder, hooded winter clothing can affect hearing and block peripheral vision.”

“Federal Railroad Administration Chief Administrator Szabo recently recognized the accomplishments of SOFA,”  Qualy said. “However, all credit goes out to each and every railroad worker in North America. It is astounding that we have not suffered a single SOFA fatality in more than one year. Our mission remains the same – zero fatalities.” 

It is recommended that all SMART TD members review the SOFA working group’s Safety Posting for the first quarter of 2014 found here

As always, in an effort to reduce injuries and fatalities, the SOFA Working Group asks that railroad employees practice the following five life-saving measures: 

  1. Secure all equipment before action is taken.
  2. Protect employees against moving equipment. 
  3. Discuss safety at the beginning of a job or when work changes. 
  4. Communicate before action is taken. 
  5. Mentor less experienced employees to perform service safely.

“As we approach the end of one of our worst winters in decades, we expect the railroads to clear hard crust snowpack from our yards, pick out switch-channels and sand walkways. We must anticipate and plan for the worst” said Qualy. “As train crews and members of the SMART TD, continue to be your brother and sister’s keeper for safety.”

Szabo: Moving in right direction thanks to SOFA

joe_szabo_fra

Szabo

The following message was sent to the UTU National Legislative Office from Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo.

Friends,

I wanted to share with you a rail safety achievement from 2013 that really meant a lot to me. Last year, only one railroad employee died during switching operations.

As I wrote on the DOT blog, this is more than a statistic to me. What’s more, I know that all of my FRA colleagues share my view that one worker fatality is one too many.

But we’re moving in the right direction – and that’s largely thanks to the Switching Operations Fatality Analysis Group (SOFA) formed in 1998 with FRA, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, the United Transportation Union, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, and the Association of American Railroads.

This is real proof that safety partnerships get results, serving our core goal of ensuring continuous safety improvement. With continued cooperation among SOFA’s stakeholders, I believe our ultimate goal of all rail workers returning home safely each day is now well within our reach.

Here’s another link to the blog: http://1.usa.gov/1iqYVta

FRA cautions rails about flat switching operations

FRA_logo_wordsWASHINGTON – The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) May 3 issued an industry-wide safety advisory to warn about safety hazards associated with flat switching operations on railroads. Since 2009, six railroad employees sustained fatal injuries placing themselves between unsecured rolling equipment during switching operations, including one employee who was killed last year.

“Safety is our highest priority,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We are committed to taking the necessary steps to secure the safety of the traveling public, as well as those working in the transportation field.”

In flat switching, rail cars are diverted to the proper track to complete a train by one of two methods, either by “manually kicking” or “shoving to couple.” When rail cars are kicked, they are uncoupled from the switching locomotive while in motion, allowed to roll freely and are expected to couple with the other rail cars upon impact with the new train. When rail cars are shoved to couple, they are not uncoupled from the switching locomotive until they have already coupled with and are secured to the new train.

Through investigations of one of the six fatalities, FRA identified switching yard characteristics that may increase the risks of unsecured rail equipment rolling back onto an employee if an irregular grade is present in a flat switching yard.

During kicking operations, employees are at greater risk if the rail car doesn’t couple securely with other rail cars already resting on the destination track.

“Kicking railcars is efficient but it can also have significant consequences if rail carriers don’t have operating rules to safeguard employees to ensure that kicked rail cars are securely coupled,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph C. Szabo. “Where there is risk of a rollback shoving to couple provides absolute certitude.”

In 2010, FRA released recommendations developed by the Switching Operations Fatality Analysis Working Group (SOFA) that have been adopted by individual railroads in their operating rules. Today’s Safety Advisory 2013-03 warns railroad management and employees about the inherent dangers of employee movements between unsecured rolling rail cars. It advises railroads to review and follow SOFA recommendations previously set forth in a FRA 2011 Safety Advisory and, where conditions exists, to develop operating rules that safeguard employees, and advises employees to follow the rules.

To learn more about Safety Advisory 2013-03 please click here.

 

Job briefings save limbs and lives

Safety 1st; Safety FirstJob briefings can prevent serious injuries and fatalities, says the Federal Railroad Administration in a switching fatalities and severe injury update. The FRA cites 23 fatalities that have occurred as a result of what it terms “inadequate job briefings.”

The FRA offers the following tips for “an effective job briefing”:

* First, a job briefing is different from a safety briefing. A job briefing is specific to upcoming work and its interrelated and independent tasks. A safety briefing is more general, often occurring at the beginning of a shift

* Ongoing communication is crucial among employees during the entire time switching operations are being performed, including periods when tasks are changing or when anomalies occur. Thus, it is important always to monitor work-in-progress, especially for anomalies. When work changes occur, the employees involved may not maintain current with these changes. They may be unaware of the tasks to be performed, and this may place them in peril.

* All crew members should be empowered to stop work and request a job briefing

* A job briefing is a two-way exchange of information to reach an understanding of the tasks being performed. All should participate in the job briefing, regardless of seniority. All should be heard about concerns of upcoming work. All should understand the exact nature of work to be performed

* A job briefing cannot be standardized, generalized or simply rule based. Switching acts can be unique to circumstances and location. A briefing must be adequate and specific to the acts. Fatalities have resulted even after a job briefing because the briefing was not adequate

* At a minimum, a job briefing should include:
  
       * Who will act
       * What act is to be done
       * Where the act will occur
       * When the act will occur
       * Why the act is being done

* An effective job briefing can prevent harm to employees monitoring switching operations for anomalies from what was planned. Stopping work when appropriate, and holding an effective job briefing, are part of safe operating practices.

For more information on FRA safety advisories, click on the following link:

www.fra.dot.gov/Pages/1781.shtml

To review the first quarter, 2012, Switching Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) report, click on the following link:

https://smart-union.org/td/switching-operations-fatality-analysis/
 

This is all about saving railroaders’ limbs and lives

During the first six months of 2011, 37 serious injuries occurred during switching operations, resulting in three fatalities and eight amputations; while over the past two years, five rail workers have died in accidents involving rolling rail equipment.

The Switching Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) Working Group and the UTU Rail Safety Task Force have been consulting with the FRA to study the causes and prevention of such horrific accidents, leading the FRA Oct. 11 to issue new recommendations aimed at preventing such fatalities and injuries.

The recommendations, published in the Federal Register, are intended, says the FRA, to convey to carrier management and rail workers “the critical importance of following key operating procedures when going between rolling equipment.”

These recommendations include:

* Review current operating and safety rules that specifically address remote control locomotive and conventional switching operations that require employees to go between rolling equipment, and determine whether those rules provide adequate protection to employees, or need to be updated or revised;

* Develop, implement and monitor sound communication protocols that require employees on multi-person switch crews to notify their fellow crewmembers when the need arises to enter between two pieces of rolling equipment – regardless of whether the employee is the primary RCO or working on a conventional crews.

* Review SOFA Safety Recommendation No. 1 relating to adjusting knuckles, adjusting drawbars and installing end-of-train devices, and communicate procedures implementing that recommendation to employees working in yards or other locations where the possibility of entering between rolling equipment exists.

SOFA Safety Recommendation No. 1 provides: “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.

“Additionally, any crew member that intends to adjust knuckles/drawbars, or apply or remove EOT device, must ensure that the cut of cars to be coupled into is separated by no fewer than 50 feet. Also, the person on the ground must physically inspect the cut of cars not attached to the locomotive to ensure they are completely stopped; and, if necessary, a sufficient number of hand brakes must be applied to ensure the cut of cars will not move.”

* Convey to employees that their own personal safety is their responsibility and that railroad management supports and encourages those employees that make safety their number one priority, regardless of their immediate assignment;

* Convey to employees that they should encourage fellow employees to perform their tasks safely and in compliance with established railroad rules and procedures.

To view the FRA’s Federal Register notice, click on the following link:

http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2011-10-11/html/2011-26283.htm

To view more information on rail safety, click on the following link:

https://smart-union.org/td/safety/

Situational awareness saves limbs, lives, careers

SOFA LogoA UTU-member conductor employed by Canadian Pacific in LaCrosse, Wis., suffered a severe injury – being pinned beneath a freight car that derailed and tipped over — during a switching operation Sept. 5. The 43-year-old conductor had less than one year of service.

During the first six months of 2011, 37 serious injuries occurred during switching operations, resulting in three fatalities and eight amputations, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.

These accidents emphasize that there is no more dangerous civilian occupation than working in a railroad switching yard, where accidents too often kill, maim and end careers.

Yard safety requires situational awareness, which is a state of mind coupled with teamwork, communication and uninterrupted attention to the task at hand.

To combat yard fatalities and career-ending injuries, the Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) Working Group was formed in 1998.

It is a peer review group comprised of representatives from labor, management and the Federal Railroad Administration — all collaborating to bring railroaders home in one piece.

SOFA’s five lifesaving tips that can save yours:

* 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:

* Close clearances

* Shoving movements

* Unsecured cars

* Free rolling rail cars

* Exposure to mainline trains

* Tripping, slipping or falling

* Unexpected movement of cars

* Adverse environmental conditions

* Equipment defects

* Motor vehicles or loading devices

* Drugs and alcohol

The SOFA Working Group’s lifesaving tips are proven to reduce your risk of a career-ending injury or death while on the job.

The UTU is represented in the SOFA group by Louisiana State Legislative Director Gary Devall, Minnesota State Legislative Director Phil Qualy and Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo.

To view recent SOFA Working Group reports, and advisories related to inexperienced employees, close clearances, industrial track hazards, job briefings and mainline train hazards, click on the following link:

https://smart-union.org/td/switching-operations-fatality-analysis/

The UTU also has a Rail Safety Task Force charged with creating action alerts to reduce rail-employee risk while on the job.

Leading the task force is UTU Arizona State Legislative Director Greg Hynes, who is assisted by UTU Arkansas State Legislative Director Steve Evans and Michigan State Legislative Director Jerry Gibson.

The task force works with UTU state legislative directors, UTU general chairpersons, the FRA and carriers in seeking to identify and communicate best practices and techniques to improve situational awareness and keep situational awareness at its highest level.

For more information on the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, and to view its advisories, click on the following link:

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