Steelworkers document injury, death by remote control

Harrowing testimony about workers' deaths related to the operation of remote control locomotives in the steel industry, delivered by United Steelworkers of America Safety & Health Specialist Frank Grimes, is now available on the BLE website.

Grimes, a 46-year veteran of the steel industry, delivered his testimony at the recent FRA Technical Conference on remote control locomotives. This type of operation has been used in steel mills for 20 years.

Since 1980, there have been 41 fatalities involving railroads in steel mills. Of the 41 workers killed, 30 were operating employees such as engineers, conductors or switchmen. And of those 30 fatalities, 13 involved a remote controlled locomotive.

"(A)ny piece of equipment, like the remote control devices, will malfunction at some point and no matter how reliable they are, they will fail," Grimes warned. "So when you are considering the use of remote control devices... you must consider the added danger you are putting on the engineers when you take them out of the cab. You must consider the added (danger of being hit) by a moving locomotive... There is less visibility on the ground than in the cab. (T)he additional responsibilities of switching cars and running the locomotive (is) enormous."

Grimes, the USWA's Safety & Health Specialist for the past 30 years, provided details of the gruesome deaths that 13 steelworkers suffered while working with remote control locomotives. A transcript of his testimony is available on the BLE website at:


2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers