FRA Issues Safety Advisory on Portable Derails

The Federal Railroad Administration has issued a safety advisory for railroads and railroad contractors urging them to take steps to ensure the visibility of portable derails.

The advisory said portable derails should be clearly visible to train crews and operators of on-track equipment, particularly at night and in low-light conditions.

Portable derails should be removed when not necessary for on-track safety.

Regulators released the advisory following a fatal Aug. 29 derailment that occurred in a railroad yard at night.

A portable derail had been placed on the track earlier that day to protect multiple engineering work groups working on the track.

The train crew did not see the portable derail and struck it while operating at 9 miles per hour, derailing five cars.

Killed in the incident was the conductor, who was riding the lead car and was crushed when the car rolled over.

In a notice published in the Federal Register, the FRA noted that its blue flag rules “have long required mechanical derails to be used for the protection of workers on, under, or between rolling equipment to have a blue light illuminated at night.”

But portable maintenance of way derails are not required to be marked or otherwise illuminated for conspicuity, even under conditions of limited visibility.

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