Make railroad yard walkways safer

Ohio House Transportation Committee members:

I am requesting that you please consider supporting HB 186. One component of this legislation concerns proper walkways in railroad yards.

The SMART-TD and the Ohio State Legislative Board represents the crafts of railroad employees known as switchmen, trainmen, conductors, locomotive engineers and remote-control operators, all of whom are required to traverse walkways in rail yards in which to perform their duties.

Ohio is one of the few states that does not define walkway safety standards for rail yards. Proper walkway safety legislation is needed to update Ohio’s rail yard regulations.

This legislation contains common-sense rail-safety language that would require rail yard walkways to be reasonably free of hazards and obstructions.

Proper walkways in railroad yards safety legislation contained in HB 186 would contain common-sense rail-safety language that would require rail yard walkways to be reasonably free of hazards and obstructions. Walkway safety standards pertaining to railroad workers in California, Illinois, Nevada and Arizona have adopted these safety standards.

Regarding statistics covering walkways, the Federal Railroad Administration has several categories of reportable conditions which relate to walkway-caused injuries. These include injuries when one slipped, fell, stumbled, etc., due to irregular surface; stepping down; stepping over; and walking.

Cluttered walkways pose a significant danger to rail yard workers. Debris and other obstacles in walkways can cause workers to trip and suffer injury or, worse, fall under a moving train.

Those railroad yard workers (in order to perform their duties) have to run alongside the cars (that are moving around 10-15 mph) on the walkways in order to “switch” the cars onto other tracks. Some walkways contain large rocks (road ballast) that are difficult to walk on as well as debris (i.e., scrap metal) which then create unsafe conditions. Some carriers have voluntarily created safer walkways by putting in smaller gravel (similar to the gravel used for unpaved driveways).

The UTU (predecessor union of SMART-TD) entered into an agreement with most of the railroads in the United States, for the operation of remote-control devices. The agreement was approved in an arbitration case Jan. 10, 2003. Such devices allow for the operation of a locomotive outside the cab of the locomotive. The device is strapped to the remote control operator and contains knobs and switches for the operator to control the movement of the locomotive. While the device is about the size of a shoebox, it is a bit cumbersome and creates some concern for instability while walking and, at times, may impede clear sight of the ground.

Railroad yards are dangerous places to work; rail yard employees often work between large, moving trains, and lighting on walkways is often poor or non-existent. The problem of unsafe walkways is endemic state wide.

As with our pursuit of proper yard lighting, HB 186, a proper walkways in rail yards goes hand in hand when it comes to safely performing yard operations. Yard operations in Ohio are remote-controlled (the remote control operator controls the movement of the locomotive). The operator has a belly pack, a radio, a lantern and a switch list, handling all of these items while also operating the locomotive from a distance.

These railroad employees should not have to worry about the surface of a walkway, to perform any of their duties safely.

The 133rd Ohio General Assembly can make a positive statement on improving rail yard safety by taking legislative action to pass a HB 186 including proper walkways in rail yards safety legislation.


Stuart Gardner,