Increased risk for switching fatalities
around the holidays
Published: December 17th 2008
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CLEVELAND, Winter weather brings risk to switching operations, and all
members who work in yard operations are reminded to recognize
special switching hazards during winter months.
The Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) Working Group issued
its quarterly advisory for December, January and February earlier this
month. The report noted that switching fatalities and SOFA-defined
severe injuries are historically higher in winter months and members are
urged to take caution.
“Risk takes no holiday on the railroad”
The SOFA Working Group has analyzed statistics dating to 1992, and has
concluded that the period from December 22 to January 14 is particularly
“While realizing that fatalities occur at all times of the year, there
seem to be a cluster in this 24-day period,” the report reads. “It is
not clear to the SOFA Working Group why this should be. However,
unfortunately, employees engaged in switching operations have lost their
lives around the holiday season.”
Members are reminded to remain focused on the tasks at hand during the
busy holiday season.
“Stay on your feet, not on your seat”
The SOFA Working Group also reported that injuries resulting from slips,
trips and falls always increase in winter months.
Of 1,448 severe injuries, 605 — 41.8 percent — resulted from slips,
trips and falls.
Slips, trips and falls can occur due to many things (oil, grease or
other slippery substances, ballast, spike, etc…). However, members
should be increasingly aware of climatic conditions (snow, ice, etc…)
during winter months.
Summaries of 2008 Switching Fatalities to-date
(based on preliminary information)
12 Switching Fatalities
January 08 – UP – Waukegan, IL
A UP conductor, working a METRA commuter train, was struck by another
METRA commuter train while he was stooped over the crossover switch
connecting the two main tracks located just South of the passenger
February 03 – NS – Chicago, IL
A brakeman, working between cars in his train, stepped out from between
two cars and into the path of a main track Canadian National train that
was passing the stopped NS train.
March 05 – WSOR – Random Lake, WI
A 50-year-old conductor was riding the side of a car into an industry
when the car derailed, struck a car on an adjacent track, and resulted
in the death of the employee.
May 26 – CSX – Lumberton, NC
A 45-year-old conductor was riding the leading end of 97 loaded coal
hoppers and directing the move to the unloading spot by radio commands
to his engine crew. Once the move was stopped, the conductor could not
be contacted and was subsequently found dead, under a pile of coal
located near the unloading area.
May 29 – UP – Amarillo, TX
A brakeman was riding the leading end of a four car cut of cars that was
free rolling into a track. As the brakeman went to position himself to
begin controlling the speed of the free rolling cars by using the
handbrake, the hand brake support gave way, the hand brake apparatus
broke off and the employee fell under the leading end of the free
June 08 – UP – Houston, TX
A brakeman was lining switches ahead of a shove move during an
industrial switching operation. The brakeman was directing the shove
move via radio. Radio communication ceased, the conductor went back to
check on the brakeman and found him dead within the gage of the rail.
July 10 – BNSF – Minneapolis, MN
A utility employee was in the process of “bleeding off” cars on track 11
in Northtown Yard when the leading end of a shoving move passed him.
Shortly thereafter, a car inspector found the body of the utility
September 10 – INRD – Terre Haute, IN
An employee was riding the leading end of a two car shove into an
Industrial track when the car he was riding rode up on material build-up
in the crossing, derailing the car into a pile of railroad track ties
and crushing the employee to death.
September 23 – CSX – Darby, PA
A 46-year-old conductor was securing his train on one main track when he
was struck and killed by another train passing him on the adjacent main
October 15 – CSX – Decatur, AL
A 28-year-old conductor was riding a shove move into a track when the
opposite side of the car he was riding struck the corner of the leading
end of his train causing the car he was riding, and others to derail
crushing the conductor under the derailed cars.
November 15 – MRL – Laurel, MT
A 39-year-old brakeman was assisting his conductor in making air hoses and joints on track 11. The brakeman was working
from one end of the track and the conductor was working from the other
end. When communication between the two ground men failed, the conductor
walked back and found the brakeman lying between the rails. He had been
struck and killed by a block of his own free-rolling cars.
December 03 – DRIR – Denver, CO
A 33-year-old conductor was riding the leading end of a shove move over
a highway-rail grade crossing when a tractor trailer truck struck the
leading car, pinning the conductor between the truck and the car he was
riding and killing him.