DC Feedback: Handrail chain requirements

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If the BLE's National Legislative Office does not have the answer on hand (such as a federal interpretation), they'll get back to you as soon as possible. Select questions and answers will be published regularly in the pages of the Locomotive Engineer Newsletter.

This month's installment deals with the question of chains on handrails.

What are the requirements for chains to be attached to handrails between locomotives?

According to the Federal Railroad Administration a recent incident resulted in an injury to a railroad employee when he fell over safety chains linked between locomotives. FRA provided the following information taken from 49 CFR part 229.119 (e). That provision states:

"(e) Similar locomotives with open end platforms coupled in multiple control and used in road service shall have a means of safe passage between them; no passageway is required through the nose of car body locomotives. There shall be a continuous barrier across the full width of the end of a locomotive or a continuous barrier between locomotives."

Key to the application of this provision is the meaning of the words "continuous barrier" and the term "safe passage" and how that might be accomplished.

Most locomotives are equipped with safety chains that are attached from one locomotive to another. While the chains, when attached loosely, may meet requirements for providing a continuous barrier, they may not provide for safe passage. If you are required to pick up locomotives en route please take the time to ensure the chains are properly fixed and not set so low as to make them unsafe.

2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers