RAILROAD (CAR HANDLING PROCEDURES) The Federal Railroad Administration issues a safety advisory relating “to make recommendations to railroads regarding the adoption of car-handling procedures during flat switching operations at certain locations and to re-emphasize the importance of following procedures when going between rolling equipment due to the hazards involved. FRA previously made related recommendations to railroads and their employees regarding going between rolling equipment in Safety Advisory 2011-02”.

“Kicking Cars and Going Between Rolling Equipment During Flat Switching Operations.”

Note well: Under 49 C.F.R. § 219.99(a)(2) “kicking” cars refers to “the common railroad switching practice of shoving or pushing rolling equipment and then uncoupling the equipment and allowing it to roll free”.  

May 3, 2013. Notice of Safety Advisory.

“The overall safety of railroad operations has improved in recent years. However, in July 2012, a fatal event occurred during a switching operation which involved a railroad employee going between rolling equipment after kicking [1] two loaded tank cars up a 0.2-percent ascending grade. This 2012 incident illustrates the safety risks that are present when railroads allow the kicking of cars in flat switching operations at locations where the cars will likely roll back out toward the employees conducting such operations if the cars do not couple to secured standing equipment as intended. This incident also highlights the need for the railroad industry to again focus its attention on compliance with safety rules and procedures that apply to employees who, in the course of their work, must place themselves between rolling equipment.”

As to the incident that precipitated this advisory:

“On July 31, 2012, at approximately 2:30 a.m., a conventional three-person crew, consisting of an engineer, a footboard yardmaster, and a conductor/switchman (switchman) were conducting switching operations. The crew kicked—rather than shoved—two loaded tank cars southward into a yard track with the goal of coupling them to other cars that had been previously placed into the yard track and secured. The yard track had a 0.2-percent ascending grade (southward). The switchman had originally positioned himself to verify that the cars kicked into the track coupled to the standing equipment. However, after the footboard yardmaster was not able to uncouple the cars and kick them into the track, he shoved the cars toward the switchman’s location so that the switchman could make the cut and kick the cars into the standing equipment. After the two tank cars were kicked into the yard track by the switchman, he noticed that the knuckle on the last car of the block of cars still attached to the crew’s locomotive had fallen to the ground and needed to be reinserted. The switchman then informed the crew that the knuckle pin was missing. Following applicable railroad rules, prior to reinserting and adjusting the knuckle, the switchman first requested and received “Red Zone” protection. However, the two loaded tank cars that had previously been kicked into the yard track did not couple to the standing cars on that track as intended, and the uncoupled cars rolled back northward. As the switchman adjusted the knuckle, the two loaded tank cars struck him and the standing equipment attached to the locomotive. The conductor sustained fatal injuries.”