Safety Focus of the Week: Working Around the Railroad (Revised 4/11/13)
As we move into the construction season, we have several railroad projects on several different railroads and in a variety of different track arrangements (mainline, double track, yard, sidings, etc.).
Working around railroads has some serious safety concerns for our workers, train passengers, train crews, and pedestrians/motor vehicles at grade crossings. A train incident could also create an environmental hazard if a train derails.
Special safety considerations are necessary while working on a railroad right-of-way, at grade crossings, or whenever there is a possibility of equipment swinging into the track area. In any of these situations on an active railroad, a railroad flagman is required to coordinate our operations with the railroad and provide authorization for us to occupy our work area. The railroad flagman will provide a job briefing explaining the protection he is providing. When assigned to such a job, everyone should clearly understand the name of the employee-in-charge (EIC, or typically the flagman), how to stay in contact with the EIC, type of protection, the track limits under that protection, and any special requirements. The flagman has the authority to direct us to stop our work and prepare for a train to pass.
There are also special PPE requirements set by the railroad. Typically, all workers should wear safety glasses, steel-toe boots, hi-vis reflective vests, and hardhat in addition to the other job-specific PPE.
Pre-planning is important since each railroad and situation might be subject to special requirements. Therefore, anyone working on or adjacent to any railroads should consult Gene or Hugh prior to starting work.