Agency Plans Action on|RR Accident Response

     (CN) – The Federal Railroad Administration has proposed standards for how railroad conductors and engineers respond to critical incidents such as train accidents.
     The 2008 Rail Safety Improvement Act mandated that the Department of Transportation approve railroad conductors’ and engineers’ plans on how to deal with critical incidents.
     The Transportation Department’s Federal Railroad Administration issued a notice of proposed rulemaking that would require railroads to establish critical incident stress plans for certain employees.
     A “critical incident” is defined as an accident or incident that causes death or serious injury, or an accident that could impair a railroad employee’s ability to safely perform his or her job.
     “Highway-rail grade crossing accidents and trespasser incidents along the railroad right-of-way are an unfortunate reality for employees in the railroad industry,” the agency wrote.
     “Railroad work carries the risk that a covered employee will be directly involved in a critical incident, often outside the control of the railroad employees, which can lead to severe emotional and psychological distress, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the more immediate Acute Stress Disorder. There are concerns about the impact of exposure to traumatic incidents on employees in safety-sensitive jobs, most notably engineers and conductors.”
     The agency noted that a study of Norwegian train drivers found that nearly half of the drivers who experienced at least one accident reported “considerably more health problems than those who reported no such exposure.”
     The agency plans to develop a uniform approach to responding to critical incidents on railways.
     “In recent years approximately 2,500 highway-rail crossing accidents and 900 casualties to [people] trespassing on railroad property (trespassers) have occurred in the United States annually,” the agency wrote.
     “Each one of these incidents, as well as other traumatic events such as railroad accidents or incidents resulting in serious injury or death to railroad employees, hold potential for causing ASD, PTSD, or other health and safety-related problems, in any railroad employee who is present. Some locomotive engineers and conductors have had the misfortune of experiencing multiple potential PTSD/ASD-invoking events over the course of their careers.”
     The agency’s proposal seeks comments on its critical incident stress plans.
     Among other things, the agency noted that the practice of “critical stress debriefing,” where an employee is formally interviewed about an incident, “has not been shown to be effective and may actually be harmful in some instances.”
     While “debriefing” should still be part of the aftermath of a critical incident, the agency said that specific kind of debriefing should not be part of a railroad’s support service for employees.
     The agency said a public hearing on the proposed rule will not be needed, but will schedule one if it receives a specific request. Interested parties can submit comments on the proposal by Aug. 27.

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