Cardinal Rules Review

1. Getting On or Off Moving Equipment

The practice of getting on or off moving equipment has been part of railroad operations for over 100 years.  So why should you not allow your employees to continue this practice? The rail industry allowed their employees to get on and off moving equipment even though several injuries were sustained while doing so. It was an accepted belief production would dramatically fall if employees were prohibited from continuing this practice. This is no longer the case. Most, if not all the North American rail carriers over the past dozen years or so, have realized production is not as important as the safety of their employees. They have also learned by prohibiting this practice, production really did not fall off that much, but injuries associated with mounting and dismounting equipment have fallen dramatically.  Once employees realized not getting on or off equipment was a condition of employment, they learned to get the work done in the most efficient manner.  Bottom line, we as humans will adapt to new conditions. We may put up a fuss at first but we will adapt.

If your current safety policy allows getting on or off moving equipment, I strongly encourage you to prohibit this practice. It will save ankle, knee and back injuries and possibly a fatality.

2. Standing or Walking Foul of Tracks

This is a dangerous habit. There have been countless severe injuries and fatalities due to this careless practice. Remember, expect movement on any track, at any time, in either direction. A rolling rail car can be deadly silent. If you have a habit of standing or walking foul of tracks, you are gambling with your own life. There is no reset button and moving equipment gives no second chances.

3. Proper Distance Around Standing Equipment

When walking around standing equipment, always allow at least 25 feet between you and the end of the equipment. Make this a habit. Every time. Rail cars will move suddenly when struck by other equipment and if you do not have the proper distance from the end of the equipment, you may not go home to your family.

4. Proper Distance Between Standing Equipment

When walking between standing equipment, be sure the equipment is separated at least 50 feet before crossing. Do not be tempted to cross between equipment with less than the prescribed 50 foot separation.

5. Red Zone Protection

Providing protection for yourself when duties require you to go between or work foul of equipment is essential. Notify the locomotive operator you need (red zone protection) and wait for the locomotive operator to acknowledge he/she is set and centered. Only after receiving the acknowledgement from the locomotive operator can you place any part of your body foul of the equipment. This is a best practice and provides the best protection when it is necessary to work foul of equipment.

6. Blue Flag Protection

When rail cars are spotted for repair, loading or unloading blue flag protection is required. There are two parts to blue flag protection:

1) Notification- The placement of a blue flag by day and or a blue light by night on the track the work is being performed.

2) Physical- Line and lock a switch to divert rail traffic away from the protected track or the lining and locking of a derail in the derailing position to derail any equipment that may roll into the protected area.

Remember, a rail car rolling free will not stop for just the placement of the blue flag. Several serious injuries and fatalities have occurred due to improper blue flag procedures. Take the time to do it right.

7. Securing unattended Equipment

Properly secure unattended equipment. Do not rely on air brakes to secure equipment. Air brakes can and do leak off and if the equipment is not properly secured with the appropriate amount of hand brakes, the equipment is in jeopardy of rolling free. Just because the equipment has never rolled away before, does not mean that it will not roll free if unsecured in the future. An unintentional bump, a gust of wind, earthquake or simply the air brakes leaking off can all be the start of a very expensive and tragic incident.

8. Stopping within one-half the stated distance

Radio failure is not an excuse for rail cars being shoved off the end of a track or into the side of other equipment. If a shove is being made and no further distance is given by the ground person in control of the move, movement must stop within one-half the last stated distance. The ground person may have unknowingly changed radio frequencies, his radio may have failed or he may be distracted. You wouldn’t back your automobile up without being able to see. Don’t shove rail cars without knowing what the circumstances are behind you.

9. Conducting a Job Briefing

“I assumed he knew what track we were on.” Clear up any potential misunderstandings with a quality job briefing. Just because you have a clear understanding doesn’t necessarily mean your co-workers do.