Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis SOFA

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Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis


In February 1998, a Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) working group, with representatives from the FederalRailroad Administration (FRA), labor and management was formed at the request of the FRA to reviewemployee fatalities and to develop recommendations for reducing fatalities in switching operations.

The UTU is represented in the SOFA group by Minnesota State Legislative Director Phil Qualy (650) and Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo (1503).

In an effort to reduce injuries and fatalities, the group recommends that employees practice the following five life-savers:

  1. Secure all equipment before action is taken.
  2. Protect employees against moving equipment.
  3. Discuss safety at the beginning of a job or when work changes.
  4. Communicate before action is taken.
  5. Mentor less experienced employees to perform service safely.

Job briefings save limbs and lives

Job briefings can prevent serious injuries and fatalities, says the Federal Railroad Administration in a switching fatalities and severe injury update. The FRA cites 23 fatalities that have occurred as a result of what it terms “inadequate job briefings.”

The FRA offers the following tips for “an effective job briefing”:

* First, a job briefing is different from a safety briefing. A job briefing is specific to upcoming work and its interrelated and independent tasks. A safety briefing is more general, often occurring at the beginning of a shift

* Ongoing communication is crucial among employees during the entire time switching operations are being performed, including periods when tasks are changing or when anomalies occur. Thus, it is important always to monitor work-in-progress, especially for anomalies. When work changes occur, the employees involved may not maintain current with these changes. They may be unaware of the tasks to be performed, and this may place them in peril.

* All crew members should be empowered to stop work and request a job briefing

* A job briefing is a two-way exchange of information to reach an understanding of the tasks being performed. All should participate in the job briefing, regardless of seniority. All should be heard about concerns of upcoming work. All should understand the exact nature of work to be performed

* A job briefing cannot be standardized, generalized or simply rule based. Switching acts can be unique to circumstances and location. A briefing must be adequate and specific to the acts. Fatalities have resulted even after a job briefing because the briefing was not adequate

* At a minimum, a job briefing should include:

       * Who will act
       * What act is to be done
       * Where the act will occur
       * When the act will occur
       * Why the act is being done

* An effective job briefing can prevent harm to employees monitoring switching operations for anomalies from what was planned. Stopping work when appropriate, and holding an effective job briefing, are part of safe operating practices.

For more information on FRA safety advisories, click on the following link:

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