Strengthening Railroad Worker Safety

Summary: In response to recent incidents in the railroad industry, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) have intensified their collaboration to ensure the safety and well-being of railroad workers. The blog emphasizes the significance of safety measures in light of derailments and accidents, emphasizing that the railroad industry must actively protect its employees, passengers, and the communities it serves. The article highlights key expectations, including adherence to safety regulations, empowering employees to report safety issues without fear of retaliation, and involving rail employees and their unions in safety discussions. Specific measures such as participating in reporting systems, reinstating labor-management committees, providing necessary tools and controls, and raising awareness about retaliation protections are outlined. By working together, OSHA and FRA aim to enhance railroad worker safety and prioritize a cooperative approach that upholds industry standards and employee well-being.

In response to recent incidents, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) are intensifying their partnership to safeguard the well-being of railroad employees.

Recent events, such as the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, on February 3, another derailment near Springfield on March 5, and a tragic accident in Cleveland on March 7 resulting in the loss of a train conductor’s life, underscore the paramount importance of safety in the railroad industry. It is the responsibility of the railroad sector to proactively ensure the safety of their workforce, passengers, and the communities they serve.

With that in mind, the Departments of Transportation and Labor have set expectations for all rail employers. These expectations include strict adherence to safety regulations, fostering a culture that empowers employees to report safety concerns without fear of reprisal, and involving rail employees and their unions in safety discussions.

To achieve these goals, rail operators should:

  1. Participate in the Federal Railroad Administration’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System, promoting transparency and learning from near-miss incidents.
  2. Reinstate and strengthen labor-management occupational health and safety committees, ensuring full union participation and implementing safeguards against retaliation.
  3. Provide necessary tools and controls, such as personal protective equipment, to workers, emphasizing their usage for both productivity and safety.
  4. Educate managers and employees about the illegality of retaliation against those who report hazards or unsafe conditions, and make workers aware of their rights to file whistleblower complaints with OSHA or DOT if they face retaliation for protected activities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act or the Federal Railroad Safety Act.

By joining forces, OSHA and FRA are taking significant steps to enhance railroad worker safety, emphasizing a collaborative approach that upholds industry standards and prioritizes employee well-being.