October 25, 2014

Effective peer-to-peer ‘in-cab communication’ is key

In-cab communication is an essential element in overall railroad safety. Too many fatal accidents and injuries have been attributed to a lack of or insufficient “in-cab communications.” Peer-to-peer interaction is the key component to effective in-cab communications, according to the UTU’s Rail Safety Task Force.

Everyone knows someone who can benefit from peer-to-peer interaction. Post-accident discussions often include statements like “I knew this would happen” or “it was just a matter of time.” It is absolutely critical that we speak up before an incident.

At the end of the day, we all want the same things. We all want to be able to go home to our families the same way we left them. It is our responsibility as union members to speak up any time, anywhere a risky behavior or unsafe action may come up. You never want to have the thought, “I wish I had said something.” We owe it to ourselves, as well as our other brothers and sisters, to speak up and communicate frequently in the locomotive cab about the operations of the train.

The following behaviors should be practiced during every train assignment.

• Continuous job safety briefings: Crewmembers need a complete understanding of the work to be performed, with conversations about potential risks and other job-related exposures. Don’t be timid about asking questions. There are no stupid questions. Your question may save a life. So speak up if you’re unsure about a move!

• Maintaining situational awareness: This includes planning and preparing for the task ahead, doing your best to avoid distractions, distributing your work load, communicating with your crew members and “recognizing a deteriorating situation.” Develop your own technique to minimize the loss of situational awareness. This may include your own personalized method of staying aware or making a check list that you go through repetitively.

• Attention to details: Go over any details that could possibly be overlooked. Follow procedures to ensure all tasks are performed safely. Perform routine or repetitious tasks with care and attention.

• Courage and confidence to speak up when necessary: Don’t be afraid to speak up regardless of craft, seniority, organization or gender. You may save someone’s life. You may save your own life.

• Electronic devices: Be the person on your crew to demonstrate that your cell phone is off and stowed away when prohibited by rule or regulation. It’s not only because of the rules and regulations that we should do this. It’s the right thing to do to insure safety for ourselves and other crew members.

• Lead by example: As union workers, we must always demonstrate that we are the best and safest workforce money can buy.

(This is Safety Alert #9 in a series of alerts posted by the UTU’s Rail Safety Task Force.)