WASHINGTON – New minimum training and qualification standards are being proposed by the Federal Railroad Administration for rail workers in safety sensitive positions.
In a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking published Feb. 7 in the Federal Register, the FRA said affected employees would have to be trained and qualified in federal rail safety laws, regulations and orders. Those affected include train and engine workers, maintenance-of-way employees, and workers who inspect and repair freight and passenger cars and locomotives.
The FRA proposes that each railroad or contractor develop a training program designating the qualifications of each employee and them submit that program for agency approval. The training would consist of proficiency-based, incremental training modules, with workers required to demonstrate proficiency in one area before being permitted to accept additional instruction.
Employers would then be required to conduct periodic oversight of their own employees to determine compliance, and conduct annual written reviews of their training programs to close performance gaps.
The proposed rule is a requirement of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.
“Well-designed training programs have the potential to further reduce risk in the railroad environment,” said FRA Administrator Joe Szabo. “Better training can reduce the number of accidents, particularly those caused by human factors, which account for the vast majority of reportable accidents each year.”
The proposed new rule was developed with the input from officials in numerous federal and state government agencies, industry and labor.
UTU National Legislative Director James Stem said, “We need to start at the end of the pipeline. When you have a student, a new employee or an existing employee who is being trained on new equipment or new operating practices, what skills do we expect that employee to possess at the end of the training process? And then we’ll work back from that.”
Stem said many railroads, seeking to reduce training costs, have delivered self-directed, computer-based training, “leaving workers unprepared for the hazards of the job. Where there’s no instructor in the room, and all of the available information for the student is on the screen, if the student doesn’t understand the question, he or she has no one to ask. That student is then sent to the field.”
Stem said the proposed rule would create nationwide uniformity in training.
To read the FRA’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, click on the following link:
www.fra.dot.gov/rcc/pages/fp_321.shtml and then click on “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking”.