Federal agencies Rail Transportation

NTSB issues safety alert on ‘fouling’ railroad tracks

diagram of incident
Photo: National Transportation Safety Board

Washington — Prompted by a fatal incident involving two railroad workers walking on tracks owned by another railroad company, the National Transportation Safety Board on April 9 issued a safety alert regarding “fouling.”

In the incident, which took place in June 2017 in Washington, a CSX conductor and a conductor trainee were struck from behind by an Amtrak train. The workers, according to NTSB, fouled the Amtrak tracks, which means they were close enough to another railroad company’s tracks to be struck by one of its passing trains or, in any case, within 4 feet of the nearest rail. After inspecting the CSX train’s equipment, the workers were walking on the end of the crossties of the Amtrak rail rather than on the ballast near the train they were inspecting.

“Walking on active railroad tracks without protection is dangerous and wrong,” Robert Hall, director of the NTSB Office of Railroad, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials, said in an April 9 press release. “Walking on another company’s tracks without protection is even more dangerous.”

To help prevent similar incidents, NTSB issued several recommendations in the alert.

To CSX and Amtrak:

  • Prohibit employees from walking or working too close to adjacent tracks of another railroad unless they’re protected by means of communication between the two railroads.

To railroad workers:

  • Stay on the opposite side of your train from another railroad’s tracks whenever possible.
  • Don’t foul the tracks if you must be on the same side as the other railroad’s tracks.
  • Contact your company’s train dispatcher to get protection if fouling the tracks is necessary.

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