October 23, 2014

Rail Safety Alert No. 6

(The following is a security alert from the UTU’s Rail Safety Task Force.)

Rail security remains a constant threat to the nation’s railroads and our members. President Futhey wrote of this concern in a recent leadership message, “We need training to spot trouble.”

Based on recent events, the UTU’s Rail Safety Task Force strongly encourages all railroaders to remain vigilant in our effort to recognize potential threats.

That message was hammered home at a recent FRA hazardous materials seminar in Hot Springs, Ark. The hazardous materials specialist told a chilling story of a recent routine inspection of a rail yard.

The FRA specialist was approached by a conductor and asked, “Are you back again? We were just inspected a few days ago.”

The FRA specialist inquired about the suspicious individual’s description and what happened. Immediately, he realized that the FRA had no one in the region that fit the description.

The facts became more chilling.

When the possible terrorist was asked by a crew member as to whom he was, the individual flipped out a badge and quickly closed it without giving the crew member an opportunity to inspect it. The suspicious individual went as far as to inquire about the chemicals vinyl chloride and ammonia nitrate — if there were any cars in the yard with those chemicals, and the frequency they were there.

With rail crews subjected to physical abuse, robberies and threats from public trespassers, the potential for a breach in security seems to be trending in the wrong direction.

The UTU Rail Safety Task Force reminds our members to focus on the following:

KNOW YOUR WORKSITE: Know your area officers, co-workers, FRA and TSA inspectors — if not personally, at least by name or face.

If a person or vehicle looks out of place, and you are unsure of who an individual is, or if suspicions arise for any reason, follow your railroad’s guidelines to ensure that person remains on the property. In many cases this may involve contacting the proper authority to handle the threat.

All federal agents are required to present proper identification upon request. In cases of trespassers, caution should always be taken and it may be best to let those authorized to handle such situations handle them.

 MAINTAIN SITUATIONAL AWARENESS: Be aware of suspicious individuals and items. We generally travel and work the same areas. If something looks out of place, report it immediately. Do not leave a potential threat for others to handle.

Be aware of high risk locations, such as fuel facilities, hazardous materials cars, radio towers, and dimly lit areas. Make sure to inspect safety appliances and use them if they are required.

Inspect all locks, gates, doors and derails that are used as safety devices, and report those that are found to be damaged or missing to the proper authority.

As always, our first line of defense is ensuring that any issues that may impair our personal safety are properly handled in an expedient manner. Those on the ballast see or hear it first, and it is those on the ballast who are most in harm’s way.

For more information on the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, click below:

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

In solidarity,

UTU Rail Safety Task Force

Greg Hynes, UTU Arizona state legislative director

Steve Evans, UTU Arkansas state legislative director

Jerry Gibson, UTU Michigan state legislative director