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The Importance Of Reporting Unsafe Conditions

The Railroad can be a dangerous place to work. The Federal Rail Administration reported that there were 7,288 “other incidents” in the United States rail industry in 2011. “Other incidents” are defined as “any event that caused a death, an injury, or an occupational illness to a railroad employee.” Since the first of this year, the number of “other incidents” has been 3,413.

Railroaders cope with unsafe conditions all the time. There’s moving equipment to contend with, uneven surfaces, debris, vegetation, faulty equipment and even trespassers. What should a Railroader do when encountering one of these conditions? Report It Immediately!

By reporting an unsafe condition, you are alerting the Railroad that the condition exists. Hopefully, it gets taken care of immediately and nobody gets hurt. The reality is that it probably won’t. If it doesn’t get fixed and somebody does get hurt, then there’s documentation that the Railroad was alerted of the problem. In addition to blaming the injured Railroader for his own injuries, Railroads are notorious for claiming that that they weren’t aware of the unsafe condition. For a Railroad to be legally responsible for an employee’s injury, it has to know or have reason to know that hazardous condition existed prior to the injury. As you can imagine, the Railroad always claims it didn’t know.

How do you report an unsafe condition? Immediately report it to someone at the Railroad. Report it to a supervisor, the Yardmaster, the Trainmaster, someone. This initial verbal report needs to be followed-up to make sure the Railroad has a record of it. If a written report can be filed, fill it out (CSXT uses a document called a PI-82). Other Also, contact your local chairman or someone on the Safety Committee and let them know about the condition. They will make sure the Railroad is properly notified of the condition. It is very important that the initial verbal report is documented. If it isn’t, the Railroad is going to deny that it was ever notified of the unsafe condition.

Finally, remember, the FRSA protects those who are retaliated against for reporting unsafe conditions. Information concerning that protection can be found here.

By Matt Darby

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