The National Transportation Safety Board investigates accidents involving railway employees and others in the nation’s transportation sector. According to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the NTSB uses the information it gathers to create a most wanted list of improvements that would prevent many of the common types of accidents and make workplaces and processes safer for the future.
This year, the NTSB has included improving rail worker safety.
Although statements from two major rail carriers indicate that injuries and fatalities are down at their companies, the NTSB says too many employees are still sustaining serious and fatal injuries while working on or near railroad tracks. The accidents are happening during routine duties, indicating the need for better safety requirements and protections for workers. The victims are often mechanical workers, maintenance-of-way employees and train crews.
This is not the first time that railway transportation has been on the improvement list. For example, Safety and Health Magazine reports that there are three safety recommendations from 2018 that the NTSB has recently closed due to compliance. Although it took a significant extension to give companies time to meet the guidelines, railroads have installed positive train control systems to meet the safety improvement. PTC is a system that slows and stops trains without human intervention in emergency situations.
Over the past 53 years, the NTSB has issued 82 safety recommendations based on 154 derailments and collisions that safety experts believe PTC could have prevented or mitigated. Hopefully, the recommendations for worker safety will not meet resistance or take so long to implement. With advocacy and support, employees may be able to see the number of injured or killed co-workers drop as companies implement the safety improvements.