SOFA group issues safety statistics

126 switching fatalities since 1992

The Switching Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) Group has issued its safety statistics for the month of January of 2004.

According to SOFA, there were 11 "severe injuries" in switching operations in January, including two amputations. The SOFA Group issues regular safety reminders to help achieve its goal of eliminating switching injuries and fatalities. The group was formed in February of 1998 at the request of the Federal Railroad Administration to review switching operations accident reports and to develop recommendations for reducing fatalities and injuries.

For the entire year, there have been two fatalities in switching operations. On January 14, a Norfolk Southern conductor with four years of service was killed when struck by a train he was switching in Kankakee Yard in Kankakee, Ill. On March 10, a 46-year-old Metro North conductor (with 27 years of service) was killed when struck by his own equipment at Metro North's Stamford Yard in Stamford, Conn.

Since January 1, 1992, there have been 126 switching fatalities. Of those 126 fatalities, seven took place in the month of May.

According to SOFA, the average age of the victims in the seven fatalities is 47. The average length of service was 14.6 years with four employees having less than 2.5 years of service.

The BLET, a Division of the Teamsters' Rail Conference, is part of the SOFA Group, along with representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Association of American Railroads (AAR), American Shortline and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA), UTU, and the U.S. Department of Transportation's Volpe Center. The BLET's representatives are: George Last, Colorado State Legislative Board Chairman; Tom Perkovich, Minnesota State Legislative Board Chairman; and Rob Svob, Arizona State Legislative Board Chairman.

Five SOFA Lifesavers

Issued by the Switching Operations Fatality Analysis Group

Recommendation 1

Any crew member intending to foul track or equipment must notify the locomotive engineer before such action can take place. The locomotive engineer must then apply locomotive or train brakes, have the reverser centered, and then confirm this action with the individual on the ground. Additionally, any crew member that intends to adjust knuckles/drawbars, or apply or remove EOT device, must insure that the cut of cars to be coupled into is separated by no less than 50 feet. Also, the person on the ground must physically inspect the cut of cars not attached to the locomotive to insure that they are completely stopped and, if necessary, a sufficient number of hand brakes must be applied to insure the cut of cars will not move.

Recommendation 2

When two or more train crews are simultaneously performing work in the same yard or industry tracks, extra precautions must be taken:

Same Track

Two or more crew members are prohibited from switching into the same track at the same time, without establishing direct communication with all crew members involved.

Adjacent Track

Protection must be afforded when there is the possibility of movement on adjacent tracks(s). Each crew will arrange positive protection for (an) adjacent track(s) through positive communication with yardmaster and/or other crew members.

Recommendation 3

At the beginning of each tour of duty, all crew members will meet and discuss all safety matters and work to be accomplished. Additional briefings will be held any time work changes are made and when necessary to protect their safety during their performance of service.

Recommendation 4

When using radio communication, locomotive engineers must not begin any shove move without a specified distance from the person controlling the move. Strict compliance with "distance to go" communication must be maintained.

When controlling train or engine movements, all crew members must communicate by hand signals or radio signals. A combination of hand and radio signals is prohibited. All crew members must confirm when the mode of communication changes.

Recommendation 5

Crew members with less than one year of service must have special attention paid to safety awareness, service qualifications, on-the-job training, physical plant familiarity, and overall ability to perform service safely and efficiently. Programs such as peer review, mentoring, and supervisory observation must be utilized to insure employees are able to perform service in a safe manner.



© 2004 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen