Roadway workers perform a key role in keeping the nation’s freight, passenger, and transit rail systems operating safely and efficiently. These individuals perform a variety of critical maintenance, repairs, and inspection on all aspects of the rail system.
Despite a renewed effort by the rail industry, fatalities and injuries to roadway workers continue to occur across the nation’s freight, passenger, and transit rail systems. The causes of these accidents are all human factor related, especially in the area of adherence to rules and procedures. Other factors include rules compliance and organizational issues.
At the same time, there is no unified and cohesive source from which railroads and other concerned organizations can gain a perspective of roadway worker safety issues.
Using accident reports and information available primarily from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as well as the FRA and FTA, and the railroad industry, research was conducted, with a focus on the probable causes and contributing factors. Research was also conducted on the various industry efforts, both public and private, to curb these fatalities and injuries.
One of these efforts has been to develop a roadway worker warning system, to notify employees of an approaching train. Those railroads who have implemented this solution have reported positive results; however, this technology has not been widely accepted. This may be, in part, due to major capital requirements, such as Positive Train Control, which limits funding for other programs.
Training best practices are also outlined, with the goal of ensuring that roadway workers understand the risks they face while working on the railroad. Strategies are presented to ensure that training is conducted following best practices, including key case studies whose real life examples help trainees understand the criticality of following the rules and procedures each and every time they work on the system.