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PRACTICES FOR WAYSIDE RAIL TRANSIT WORKER PROTECTION SUMMARY From 2003 to 2008, the nation's heavy rail transit systems experienced eight accidents that resulted in the deaths of 10 right-of-way (ROW) workers, including track inspectors, track workers, and signal technicians, representing a 300% increase in the rate of fatalities and injuries from the historic averages in the heavy rail industry. In 2010, two more rail transit ROW workers lost their lives when they were struck by a high-rail vehicle. Of the 19 worker fatalities reported to the National Transit Database (20032008) for rail transit, 17 were reported for heavy rail service and two for light rail service. Over half of those fatalities reported occurred on the ROW, in addition to the injuries and close calls to track workers that occurred on the ROW during the period. The objectives of this study are to report the state of knowledge and practice regarding wayside worker protection programs at selected transit agencies and to document the state of the practice, including lessons learned and gaps in information. Transit agency personnel indicated that in the wake of incidents involving track worker fatalities or near misses, their systems took aggressive actions. For example, as a result of two track worker fatalities on the New York City Transit (NYCT) system, the agency formed a Track Safety Task Force to evaluate the safety culture, identify deficiencies and strengths, and develop recommendations for improvements. After a near miss incident, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) established a Track Level Safety Team. This committee, composed of senior management from all the rail operations disciplines and worker representatives, was charged with developing recommendations on how to improve the safety of employees work- ing at track level. Other systems formed or reconstituted "Rules Committees" to revisit their ROW rules and procedures and make necessary improvements. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) essentially rewrote its complete rule book from scratch, in a collaborative effort with labor and management representatives from several departments. Five systems, including NYCT and MBTA, participated in this synthesis study by provid- ing materials, taking part in extensive interviews and site visits, or both. The other three sys- tems participating were Maryland Transportation Administration, TTC, and New Jersey Transit River LINE operation. These five systems afforded the study team a range of modal, operational, demographic, size, and historical characteristics from which to look at practices and processes. The systems were selected based on the researchers' experiences and close collaboration and consultation with topic panel members. The study methodology included a literature review; telephone interviews; a review of rail transit documents including rule books, bulletins, training documents, and trend analyses; and selected site visits. During the site visits, the study team also witnessed flagging and work-site procedures in practice. Three key findings were identified as a result of this effort: · The high-level standard developed by the APTA Standard for Work Zone Safety authorized by the APTA Rail Transit Standards Executive Committee on June 8, 2003, is the only national resource addressing transit track worker safety.
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2 · Each of the five systems studied continually strives to improve the safety and level of protection for their ROW workers. · Deviations existed in each system's program depth and complexity. These deviations varied, from those that reflected the environmental and operational hazards and charac- teristics of the systems to those that were influenced more by organizational cultural characteristics and historical practices. Specifically, transit systems are taking steps to accomplish the following: · Improve procedures to enhance safety and clarify rules so they are more easily understood; · Augment their initial and recertification training programs for track workers and flaggers; · Identify specific pieces of equipment essential to keeping workers safe; and · Implement audit or inspection processes for rules compliance. The practices reported by the agencies as having a positive impact ranged from minor changes to major initiatives. A sample of these practices includes the implementation of a joint labor/management pre-job safety inspection in NYCT; new procedures that require a transportation official (supervisor) to be part of setting up certain flagging sites and the deployment of "Emergency Personal Protective Equipment Boxes" throughout the rail system at MBTA; the implementation of computer-based training for recertification training at MTA; and the use of unique-colored vests for watchpersons/flaggers on the River LINE. Although these practices and several others continue to improve track worker safety, they represent pieces of programs that lack industry consistency and an evaluation mechanism. Overall program effectiveness is difficult to measure given the lack of an industry standard for specific components and practices, and for evaluating program strengths and areas in need of improvement. Within the five systems included in the study, there were four distinct processes for determining, establishing, and carrying out track worker protection levels and measures, with significant differences in staffing levels, risk tolerances, training requirements, and audit processes. Future research efforts that could benefit rail transit systems in their efforts to improve track worker safety include: · Development of standardized ROW hazard analysis and mitigation training programs that utilize engaging, adult-learner methods for ROW workers and their supervisors; · Development of a model plan for a track worker safety protection program; · Development of a standardized, comprehensive approach to tracking and analyzing accidents, near miss, and rule violation data; and · Exploration of the use of technology-based inspection methods, such as rolling-stock or high-rail-vehiclemounted video cameras or sensors in the railroad industry, their applicability to the rail transit environment, and their utility in reducing hazard exposures for track inspectors.