Northern Safety & Industrial

Rail - Moving Freight and People Across N. America

Rail transportation is a growing, dynamic industry that generates more than $60 billion in revenue and operates over 140,000 miles of rail. Freight rail allows the transport of products and materials and helps fuel our economy. With over 17 billion tons of freight moved each year, there are countless opportunities for accidents such as collisions, derailments, and machinery malfunctions to occur. Whether you are a part of the dispatching division, survey and construction personnel, train crew, yard or field operations, you can count on us for products and services to help you work safely, increase efficiency, and meet the demanding challenges of your job.

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Health & Safety Hazards

Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD)

When workers lift heavy objects, reach overhead, bend into awkward positions, or perform repetitive tasks, they are prone to painful MSDs. These conditions include sprains, strains, and other damage to muscles, ligaments, nerves, and tendons. These injuries, and their accompanying costs, can largely be prevented by applying ergonomic principles.

Slips, Trips, and Falls

OSHA reports that around 15% of accidental deaths in the US each year. Employees should wear footwear with non-slip soles and provides adequate traction and is appropriate for the work conditions. It's also important to look in the direction that you're walking and avoid distractions. Avoid falls by keeping walkways free of clutter, using ladders properly, and using fall protection equipment where necessary.

Silica Dust

Rail employees are exposed to crystalline silica dust when working with ballast rock, which is usually composed of granite or limestone. Inhalation of silica can cause silicosis, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Protect workers by establishing an exposure control plan, using dust controls, providing respirators, and offering medical exams that include chest X-rays.

Transportation Incidents

Derailments and collisions cause injuries and fatalities each year in the rail industry. They can be caused by mechanical failure, unprotected railroad crossings, human error, defective tracks, and even poor visibility. Workers must follow Federal Railroad Administration guidelines, wear high visibility clothing, and listen for whistles and other sounds to keep safe.

Struck By/Caught In/Caught Between Incidents

Rail employees work around heavy, powerful objects and machinery and are also subject to painful pinch point accidents. Poor lighting is sometimes a contributing factor, as well. Hard hats, steel toe footwear, and safety eyewear are among the PPE that prevents injury.

Noise

Rail employees are often in loud environments. Prolonged exposure to both loud noise and sudden bursts of noise heavily impact hearing. OSHA requires employers to address hazards to hearing. Controlling noise exposure and using personal protective equipment (PPE) prevent hearing loss on jobsites.

Diesel Particulate Matter

Those working in the rail industry are at risk for exposure to diesel particulate matter. Employers should assess the conditions and take action to limit exposure to the air contaminants, including implementing control devices and PPE.

Chemical Exposure

Burns and inhalation sickness can affect rail employees in many jobs, from loading and unloading cargo to welding. Employers must protect workers, use identifying labels and safety data sheets (SDS), and implement employee training to limit exposure.

Regulations


Recognizing and controlling hazards is essential in averting injuries and deaths in the rail industry. To prevent these incidents and remain compliant, safety programs should be structured according to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulations. A successful program should encompass the hierarchy of controls, training on operational procedures and risks employees might encounter, as well as proper personal protective equipment (PPE). Read below about some of the regulations put in place by the FRA.

49 CFR 214.339

Each railroad shall have in effect and comply with written procedures that prescribe effective requirements for audible warning by horn and/or bell for trains and locomotives approaching any roadway workers or roadway maintenance machines that are either on the track on which the movement is occurring, or about the track if the roadway workers or roadway maintenance machines are at risk of fouling the track.

49 CFR Part 214.519

Floors, decks, stairs, and ladders of on-track roadway maintenance machines shall be of appropriate design and maintained to provide secure access and footing, and shall be free of oil, grease, or any obstruction which creates a slipping, falling, or fire hazard.

49 CFR Part 214.1

The purpose of this part is to prevent accidents and casualties to employees involved in certain railroad inspection, maintenance, and construction activities.

49 CFR 214.105(a)(5)

Prior to use and after any component or system is changed, bridge workers shall be trained in the applications limits of the equipment, proper hook-up, anchoring and tie-off techniques, methods of use, and proper methods of equipment inspection and storage.

49 CFR 214.115

The railroad or railroad contractor shall require railroad bridge workers to wear foot protection equipment when potential foot injury may result from impact, falling or flying objects, electrical shock or burns, or other hazardous condition.

49 CFR 227.1 (b)

This part prescribes minimum Federal health and safety noise standards for locomotive cab occupants.

Resources

How to properly wear ear plugs

Hearing protection plays a critical role in many industrial workplaces. Heavy-duty equipment and machines are often loud and could cause significant damage to workers' hearing.

Protect Your Feet As You Work

Anyone in the railroad industry who has had a sprained ankle, a bone spur, or a broken toe knows the inconvenience that comes with a bandaged foot, a cast, or crutches.

Working Around Diesel Exhaust

Workers in railroads, oil and gas, construction, mining, agriculture, transportation, and many other industries may use diesel to power vehicles and equipment.

7 Easy Ways To Keep Safe At Railroad Crossings

Walking near or around railroad tracks pose hazards and must be taken seriously. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, 94% of all rail-related fatalities and injuries occur at railroad crossing or due too trespassing. Nearly all of these incidents are preventable.

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