SOFA urges diligence in late winter conditions

Representatives of the SMART Transportation Division’s Switching Operations Fatality Analysis Working Group (SOFA) urge railroad operating employees in northern states to exercise a heightened level of caution while working in late winter weather conditions. 

Minnesota State Legislative Director Phillip Qualy and Kansas State Legislative Director Ty Dragoo remind all train crews to be aware of freezing and thawing of snowpack and muddy conditions within the coming weeks.

With a significant snowpack, the increasing angle of sunlight rays and evening hours that remain well below freezing temperatures, the risk of derailment is significant due to ice build-up in rail flange ways.

“Switchrod channels that do not drain or are not cleared of ice pose a risk for overexertion and injury. Light overnight snows can obstruct hazards and create unsafe walking conditions,” Qualy said.

“Train operating crews must not ride cars into permanent or temporary close-clearance areas under any circumstance. As an additional reminder, hooded winter clothing can affect hearing and block peripheral vision.”

“Federal Railroad Administration Chief Administrator Szabo recently recognized the accomplishments of SOFA,”  Qualy said. “However, all credit goes out to each and every railroad worker in North America. It is astounding that we have not suffered a single SOFA fatality in more than one year. Our mission remains the same – zero fatalities.” 

It is recommended that all SMART TD members review the SOFA working group’s Safety Posting for the first quarter of 2014 found here

As always, in an effort to reduce injuries and fatalities, the SOFA Working Group asks that railroad employees practice the following five life-saving measures: 

  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.

“As we approach the end of one of our worst winters in decades, we expect the railroads to clear hard crust snowpack from our yards, pick out switch-channels and sand walkways. We must anticipate and plan for the worst” said Qualy. “As train crews and members of the SMART TD, continue to be your brother and sister’s keeper for safety.”

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