October 24, 2014

Distractions kill, maim and end careers

FRA logoDistractions occur everywhere in our daily lives, but when those in safety sensitive positions are distracted on the job, the results too often result in death or career-ending injuries.

A collaborative effort among the Federal Railroad Administration, rail labor and carriers has been launched to educate and raise awareness through peer-to-peer programs of the dangers of being distracted by using electronic devices while on the job.

Specifically, the FRA has asked carriers to adopt anti-distraction programs and to remind and reinforce among rail workers in safety sensitive positions that use of electronic devices while on the job is not only in violation of federal and carrier regulations, but “socially unacceptable.”

In 2008, the FRA issued an emergency order prohibiting the use of electronic devices by rail operating employees, and it was followed in 2010 by a new permanent regulation that applies to all operating employees.

“Addressing the use of electronic devices as a safety hazard requires integrity in the process, consistency in application to all employees and all devices, and common sense in the design of the process,” said UTU National Legislative Director James Stem. “When we push the decision making process down to the level of local employee representatives and local managers, and a consensus based approach, all hazards will be addressed.”

Stem compares this consensus based approach to the success of Operation Redblock programs and the new model for success known as the Confidential Close Call Reporting system.

Stem also reminds members that in the event of a collision, derailment or fatality, one of the first actions taken by the National Transportation Safety Board is to pull the phone records of all crew members involved, as well as the phone records of crew members on other trains in the area of the event. “You don’t have to be directly involved to have your phone records examined by NTSB investigators,” Stem said.

“A good and safe practice,” Stem said, “is for all conductors and engineers starting their shift to show other crew members that they have turned off their cell phones.”

Click here to view FRA Administrator Joe Szabo’s message.