Posts Tagged ‘safety’

Rail Safety Group Urges Caution on the Job

December 13, 2020

A railroad industry safety group is reminding railroad workers to be careful on the job, citing three fatalities that occurred in recent months during switching moves.

The Switching Operations Fatality Analysis Working Group released the safety alert in the wake of fatalities in Illinois, Virginia and Arkansas.

“While these cases have not yet been analyzed, the SOFA Working Group is concerned by the 159 injuries that occurred this year through Aug. 31, 2020, and reminds all employees to remain vigilant during switching operations by not only protecting shove movement, but also protecting themselves by avoiding close or no clearances hazards,” the group’s alert stated.

The alert reminded workers to always hold a job briefing whenever the job or situation changes.

SOFA was formed in 1998 at the request of the Federal Railroad Administration to review switching operations and accident reports and develop recommendations for reducing injuries and fatalities.

Flynn Scrutinized for Atlas Safety Record

March 6, 2020

Amtrak President select William J. Flynn is being scrutinized for the safety records of the airlines that he oversaw during his time at Atlas Air Worldwide.

Pilots for Atlas, which is a freight and charter operation comprised of three carriers, have suggested that safety has not been among Flynn’s priorities.

Business Insider reported that the pilots contend Atlas has hired inexperienced and inadequately qualified pilots.

The BI report also said union leaders and pilots have been concerned about “shoddy training standards, fatigue and overwork, poor morale, and below-industry pay.”

These conditions, the pilots said, have reduced the level of safety at Atlas.

Atlas has for the past three years been locked in contentious contract negotiations with its pilots.

In February 2019 an Atlas Boeing 767 flying under contract for Amazon crashed while approaching Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport, killing both pilots and a pilot from another airline who was riding in the flight deck jump seat.

Although the National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash, it did release a statement agreeing in part with concerns raised by pilots about what they termed a lack of emphasis on safety and training standards.

Following that crash Flynn said in a prepared statement that some concerns that had been raised about safety at Atlas were “misleading and inaccurate, and inappropriately connect the Flight 3591 tragedy with ongoing contract negotiations.”

Flynn’s statement said Atlas has worked hard since its founding more than 25 years ago “to earn and maintain a record of safety and compliance.”

Flynn is scheduled to become Amtrak’s next president and CEO on April 15.

CSX Grapples With Improving Safety

September 26, 2018

Was it coincidence or was the implementation of precision scheduled railroading combined with an aggressive effort to cut costs a factor in a rise in accidents, derailments and collisions at CSX?

During 2017, the year that the operating changes were made, CSX had more incidents per mile than the national averages for Class 1 railroads.

After recording four consecutive quarters without a release of hazardous materials, CSX has had six hazmat releases since the third quarter of 2017, including at least one in each of the last four quarters.

Two CSX employees died on duty in June 2017 while another died last March.

Federal Railroad Administration figures show that accidents at CSX have caused more financial damage than the railroad has seen in at least five years.

Safety has been on the minds of CSX management, though. Last May the railroad named a chief safety officer and hired a consulting firm to audit its safety policies and culture.

“We intend to be the safest railroad,” CEO Jim Foote said during the second quarter earnings call. “A comprehensive safety inspection is underway, and I expect positive changes to result.”

Those efforts may be paying off. On-duty employee injuries dropped slightly in 2017 and if current trends hold they would this year be the lowest in a decade.

CSX’s rate of train accidents per million miles in June was 40 percent lower than in May.

Nonetheless, some CSX employees fear that a change in the management of train dispatchers might be creating safety risks.

CSX used to have a dispatch supervisor for each of its divisions. But last month it reduced that to one supervisor for the western divisions and one for the eastern divisions.

Dispatchers who spoke to the Jacksonville Business Journal said the result is that the supervisors have become overwhelmed and are forcing dispatchers to do work that the supervisors don’t have time to do.

This has meant that dispatchers are doing reports and clerical work, and answering emails as well as overseeing train operations. Each dispatcher oversees upwards of 800 miles of track.

Dispatchers who spoke with the Business Journal said their additional duties are distracting. “It’s absolutely a safety hazard,” said one dispatcher.

“In an environment where we are protecting the lives of crews and the public there is too much emphasis placed on [doing clerical work],” a dispatcher said.

“Nothing we do on the railroad has small consequences,” said another dispatcher.

A CSX spokesperson said the changes in dispatch management were designed to improve safety and performance.

“CSX’s recent management reorganization was a strategic decision to improve safety, service and shareholder value,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said CSX has not reduced the number of its dispatchers.

“The resulting changes actually enhance dispatchers’ ability to more effectively direct and coordinate the safe movement of railroad traffic on our network, the spokesperson said. “We flatly reject any assertion that suggests our new operating structure is not consistent with our belief in safety as a core value.”

However, several CSX dispatchers, some of whom have decades of experience, have left CSX to work at other railroads.

There has also been discussion about how operating longer trains has affected safety.

Figures from the U.S. Surface Transportation Board show that the average train length in the second quarter of this year on CSX is now 7,241 feet, which is 12.6 percent longer than it was in the second quarter of 2017 and 5.2 percent longer than at the beginning of the year.

Yet CSX argues that longer trains enhance safety. Their reasoning is that longer trains result in fewer trains per day. The number of trains at grade crossings is down 9 percent, a difference of 153 trains per day, according to CSX data.

The CSX spokesperson said there is no correlation between train accidents and train length, and operating longer trains is not a new phenomenon in the railroad industry.

As the railroad sees it the increased train length resulted in consolidating train profiles to achieve efficiencies.

“Operating longer (but fewer) trains both enhances safety and creates several public and private benefits,” the CSX spokesperson said.

FTA Issues Rules to Improve Safety

July 20, 2018

The Federal Transit Administration this week released two regulations that seek to improve public transit safety.

One rule requires transit agencies to incorporate safety management system policies and procedures into safety plans.

In a news release, the FTA described SMS as a “comprehensive and collaborative approach” to safety that many transit agencies haven’t previously used.

The safety plan rule takes effect July 19, 2019, and compliance is required within a year of that date.

In the coming months, the FTA expects to provide guidance to help agencies develop safety plans and implement SMS.

The FTA will defer action on the rule for about 2,000 small or rural transit systems, Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams said.

“The administration has taken a performance- and risk-based approach to development of these safety rules, and the data show that the greatest safety risk … is concentrated in urban areas and rail-transit systems,” she said.
FTA officials said that because no two transit systems are alike, the rule sets “scalable and flexible” requirements for the safety plans.

The second regulation establishes a basic training curriculum to enhance the technical competencies and capabilities of individuals responsible for the safety oversight of transit-rail systems.

That training will be required for personnel at state safety oversight agencies and their contractors, Williams said.

The FTA said publication of the rule is aimed at reducing the regulatory burden to the transit industry by eliminating a course requirement and allowing for equivalency training credit.

Foote Says CSX to Emphasize Safety

May 22, 2018

CSX plans to put additional resources into safety, CEO James Foote said during the company’s annual meeting last week.

Foot said CSX will appoint a new chief safety officer and is hiring an outside consulting firm to help with safety issues.

“Because of the incidents earlier this year, I thought we needed additional help,” Foote said, in reference to a head-on collision between a CSX auto rack train and an Amtrak train in February in South Carolina.

A preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report found that a CSX crew member failed to restore the switch to the normal position. Block signals in the area had been turned off as work progressed to install positive train control.

The crash left two Amtrak crew member dead and more than 100 passengers and crew injured.
CSX reported 1.11 personal injuries per 200,000 man-hours in first quarter of 2018, which put it in third place among other North American Class I railroads

Foote said that index rose from 0.97 in the first quarter of 2017. “That is unacceptable and we will get better,” he said.

FTA OK’s Pa Rail Transit Safety Plan

April 26, 2018

Pennsylvania has won approval for its transit-rail state safety oversight program, the Federal Transit Administration has announced.

The FTA also approved plans for Arizona and Georgia that are required by federal law.

In Pennsylvania, the state DOT provides safety oversight of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, which operates heavy-rail, light-rail and trolley lines; the Port Authority of Allegheny County, which operates a light-rail system; and the Cambria County Transit Authority incline.

States that fail to meet the April 2019 deadline for the plans risk losing federal funds.

To become certified, an SSO program must meet several federal statutory requirements, including establishing an SSO agency that is financially and legally independent from the transit agencies it oversees, FTA officials said in a news release.

GAO Wants Changes to FTA Safety Oversight

April 11, 2018

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report has found strengths and limitations in Federal Transit and Federal Railroad Administration rail safety oversight programs, but was particularly critical of the FTA.

The GAO noted that the FTA has not provided states with the guidance needed to ensure that they develop appropriate and effective transit-rail safety inspection programs of their own.

“In particular, FTA has not provided states with guidance on how to develop and implement risk-based inspection programs,” GAO officials wrote in the report. “Though FTA has said that it will develop such guidance, it does not have a plan or timeline to do so.”

The report said that the FTA has failed to develop a process or methodology to evaluate whether state safety agency enforcement authorities and practices are effective and that without clear evidence that state safety agencies’ enforcement is effective, states and the FTA may not be able to compel passenger-rail operators to fix safety issues.

GAO recommended the FTA create a plan and timeline for developing risk-based inspection guidance for state safety agencies.

It also recommended the FTA develop and communicate a method for how it will monitor whether state safety agencies’ enforcement practices are effective.

As for the FRA, the GOA suggested that it continue to use and update a risk-based model to guide inspections.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees the FTA and FRA, agreed with the recommendations.

Ohio a Target of DOT Safety Campaign

January 14, 2017

Ohio is one of 20 states being targeted by a U.S. Department of Transportation grade crossing safety advertising campaign aimed at young males.

US DOTDOT has created an advertisement built on the theme of “Stop! Trains Can’t” that urges caution at railroad crossings.

The advertisement is part of a two-year effort by DOT to reduce accidents and fatalities at grade crossings. Partners in the campaign include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Federal Railroad Administration.

The campaign was prompted by an increase in railroad crossing fatalities in 2014. Last year 232 people died in grade crossing accidents.

About every three hours a person or vehicle is hit by a train in the United States.

Ohio was chosen for the campaign because it has crossings on the list of the nation’s 15 most dangerous grade crossings and is among the states in which 75 percent of grade crossing accidents occurred in 2015.

DOT will spend $7 million to buy advertising time and space in media outlets to target men aged 18 to 49. Male drivers are involved in nearly 75 percent of all railroad crossing accidents.

Other states that will see the advertisements are California, Illinois, Texas, Louisiana, Indiana, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Mississippi, New Jersey, Arkansas and Arizona.

OLS Video Warns About Photographing on Tracks

December 3, 2015

Operation Lifesaver released a video this week designed to warn professional photographers about the dangers of taking photographs along railroad tracks.

The video is the first product in a new program initiated by the railroad-based group that seeks to address the risks of using railroad tracks as an impromptu photo studio.

OLS said that thus far in 2015 five deaths have been attributed to photography and filming along railroad tracks in the United States.

OLS President and Chief Executive Officer Joyce Rose said that since 201, there have been 13 deaths and four injuries resulting from these activities.

Preliminary 2014 statistics compiled by the Federal Railroad Administration showed an increase of 4.4 percent in overall trespassing casualties and a 13 percent increase in trespasser deaths, although trespassing injuries fell 3.9 percent.

OLS officials said that early indications are that trespassing incidents continued to increase in 2015.

“Our outreach to the photography community is an urgent step in curbing these incidents, but we want to reach everyone with a smart phone or a camera,” Rose said.

The new video, which is funded by the FRA, takes a humorous approach at scenarios that put professional photographers and their clients at risk.

The video is being made available on the OLS website, through social media and the website of its ongoing safety campaign titled “Seek Tracks? Think Train!”

The Professional Photographers of America will make the video available to its members. OLS in October worked with the PPA to conduct a webinar about the dangers of taking photos near railroad tracks.

“Capturing what are supposed to be joyful moments and happy life events are too often becoming painful, heartbreaking tales for families and communities,” said Jamie Rennert, who leads the FRA’s highway-rail grade crossing safety task force. “No photo is worth the risk. Trespassing is always illegal and often fatal.”