Working on railroads presents unique challenges and hazards that require careful attention and compliance with safety measures. Rail workers face various risks on a daily basis. This article explores the specific hazards associated with railroad work and provide safety tips and measures to mitigate them.

Train movement hazards

Without a doubt the most specific significant danger in railroad work is the presence and proximity of moving trains. Trains are massive, powerful and can operate at high speeds. This makes them potentially lethal if safety precautions are not taken seriously. 

Safety measures include:

  • Educate, train and monitor a strict adherence to signals, and compliance to safety protocols. 
  • Implement the most effective safety solutions available. 
  • Actively keep an eye out for new technologies that can enhance or replace current safety methods

Slip and fall hazards

Railroad tracks and work areas can be slippery, especially in bad weather conditions. To prevent slip and fall accidents:

  • Require workers wearing proper footwear. This means it needs to have good traction, be suitable for the conditions, and kept clean and free of debris.
  • Provide handrails for for support and stability on elevated platforms or stairs.
  • Provide adequate rest periods, and implement fatigue risk management programs.

Heavy machinery risks

Railroad work often involves the operation of heavy machinery. These can pose serious risks if not operated correctly. Safety measures include:

  • Make sure operators are thourougly trained and specifically certified to operate heavy machinery and equipment.
  • Conduct routine maintenance checks on all equipment to prevent malfunctions and accidents.
  • Require workers to wear appropriate safety gear, such as helmets, gloves, and protective eyewear, when operating machinery.

Electrified tracks and contact wires

Many railway systems use electrified tracks or contact wires, which can be extremely hazardous if not handled properly. Safety measures include:

  • Be aware of electrified tracks or loose contact in your work area and ensure all workers are informed about their locations.
  • Maintain a safe distance from electrified tracks and overhead wires. Always assume they are live.
  • Workers operating near electrified tracks must be properly trained and certified to work in such environments.

Extreme weather conditions while working on railroads

Railworkers are exposed to various weather conditions, from extreme heat to freezing cold. This can distract workers and negatively affect compliance to safety protocols. Good practices include:

  • In hot weather make sure workers stay hydrated. Also, provide plenty of water and allow for brakes in the shade. 
  • Make sure workers wear layers of clothing to stay warm and dry in cold and wet weather. 
  • Keep an eye on weather forecasts and be prepared for out of tolerance adverse conditions. Work should be postponed if conditions become dangerous.

Communication and coordination

Effective communication and coordination among trackside workers are crucial for a safe worksite. Safety measures include:

  • Establish clear communication protocols among workers, including radio or hand signals.
  • Ensure that workers are in constant communication with dispatchers to track train movements. Whether or not supported by an integrated, human error free communication/alert system. 
  • Establish procedures for responding to emergencies and incidents. This includes first aid training and equipment availability.

Working on railroads comes with its unique set of hazards. Nevertheless, with proper training, vigilance, and adherence to safety measures, these risks can be mitigated effectively. Therefore, safety should always be the top priority in the railroad industry. To ensure the well-being of all workers, while securing the smooth operation of the rail system.

Leave a Reply