Part I – Bad Order: the FRA is No Longer Looking Out for Your Safety, Period.
There is a mechanical defect here – a big one. As many of you may already know, the SMART Transportation Union sent an Emergency Petition to the Federal Railroad Administration – the agency whose mission is supposed to be the safe operation of trains nationwide – to address the unique safety conditions arising from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). SMART's Emergency Petition included basic requests to impose safety standards related to: locomotive sanitation, common room sanitation, employee temperature observation, transportation to lodging facilities, how to treat employees who develop coronavirus symptoms, and a furlough recall to deal with anticipated workforce shortages.
Did the FRA grant that petition and afford workers’ these basic safety measures in these extraordinary and dangerous times? No. Instead, this Administration's FRA granted a petition from the Association of American Railroads allowing a waiver of rail safety regulations, endangering the lives of railroaders and the general public for profit. The waived safety regulations include: track inspections under Part 213, engineer qualifications on territory they are unfamiliar with, and suspending the 60-day deadline for railroads to respond to petitions to the Locomotive Engineer Review Board and the Operating Crew Review Board. None of the safety measures suggested by SMART were adopted. Somehow this Administration’s FRA deemed that suspending operational testing – where managers hide in the bushes hundreds of feet away – "is consistent with CDC guidance related to social distancing," but SMART's request for the immediate isolation of employees exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, is not. It’s outrageous!
Let your elected representatives know that an emergency like this is not the time to relax safety regulations – it simply gives the railroads that transport deadly explosive materials throughout the country permission to operate less safely at a time when the country cannot afford major rail disasters. Let them know you support the safety measures proposed by SMART. You can use this link to find out who your representatives are, and contact them.
If you suspect you or a co-worker has contracted coronavirus at work, contact us right away, we will fight for your rights under the FELA. 410-769-5400, firstname.lastname@example.org