Examination of Railroad Yard Worker Safety
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Examination of Railroad Yard Worker Safety

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    Final Report March 1998-September 2000
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  • Abstract:
    This report presents the methods, findings and recommendations from a multi-year research program that examined worker safety issues in railroad yards. The research program focused on human factor-related hazards and solutions to railroad yard worker safety. A broad range of issues were examined, including: safety culture; training; communications; labor-management relations; work schedules; injury reporting procedures; and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)- railroad relations. The research program’s technical approach combined quantitative data analyses with qualitative research methods. Existing FRA injury and accident data were analyzed to provide statistical insights into national injury and accident demographics. Analyses of human factor-attributed yard accidents from 1994 to 1998 and employee yard injuries from 1997 to 1998 found, among other results, that 80 percent of railroad yard injuries resulted in one or more lost workdays compared to 76 percent of railroad-wide injuries. The median number of lost workdays for yard injuries was 25 compared to 20 for all railroad injuries. Personal injury and work schedule data from one railroad provided an opportunity for in-depth analysis of factors associated with worker injuries in yards. Analyses found, among other results, that there were no statistically significant differences in work schedules between injured Train and Engine crew (T&E) employees and a non-injured control group. Structured interviews with railroad management and focus groups with railroad labor around the country provided additional understanding of the safety issues that could not be gleaned from existing FRA data and analyses of railroad injury and work schedule data. Among other findings, railroad officers suggested a number of recent safety improvements, including implementation of ergonomic switch stands and increasing the use of small “walking” stone around switch leads and tow paths, that have led to a reduction in injuries. Focus groups with railroad labor identified a number of additional opportunities to reduce yard injuries. Lastly, railroad industry best practices for fostering a positive safety climate and reducing the risk of worker injuries are identified, possible enhancements to the FRA’s accident and injury data collection and reporting process are discussed, and additional research topics are identified.
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