October 20, 2014

‘Tis the season – for deadly yard accidents

It’s winter — the three months of the year during which a significant number of yard fatalities and career-ending injuries occur.

The FRA says risk is concentrated in cold-weather states, but those in warmer climates are not immune, because darkness is a factor along with cold weather and slippery ground conditions that contribute to falls.

An elevated risk during winter is the risk of being struck on mainline track by a passing train, says the FRA.

Of special concern this winter are new workers and experienced workers who have recently been brought back from furlough. “Productivity expectations should adjust to employee experience,” says the FRA, which urges that crew composition should pair an inexperienced employee with experienced employees when possible.

The UTU participates in the Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) working group, which includes labor, management and the FRA — all collaborating to bring railroaders home to their families in one piece.

SOFA’s five lifesaving tips 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

During just the first nine months of 2010, the number of severe injuries in yard work increased to 47 from 40 in 2009; and eight railroaders lost their lives in switching accidents this year.

Going home to your family in one piece requires situational awareness. SOFA’s life saving tips are proven to reduce your risk of a career-ending injury or death while on the job.

To view the fourth quarter 2010 SOFA update, click here.