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.

Safety 1st; Safety First Job 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:

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