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Remain aware during the safety improvement process

People make mistakes, to be sure. In many cases, the repercussions of those errors are minimal. However, oversight becomes a tremendous problem when it potentially includes multiple lives. Such is the case for the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) installation of faulty equipment during part of a federally mandated safety upgrade.

Due to a railroad contractor’s error, the $1 billion project has been delayed. With more than 4,000 antennas recalled, LIRR may not be on schedule for meeting the 2008 federal Rail Safety Improvement Act’s regulations. In addition to continued safety concerns for passengers and workers alike, the railroad could face fines in excess of $27,000 per day if the railroad violates the legal deadlines.

Positive train control (PTC)

PTC technology aims to slow or stop trains exceeding the speed limit. Since there are not ready-made kits available, PTC systems may differ slightly between projects. However, the technology functions through the use of communication between various systems.

Designed to improve safety for trains, PTC generally includes:

  • Centralized dispatch system – The dispatch office or system sends information about speed limits to the train’s computer.
  • Train’s on-board computer – The technology on the train accepts the dispatch system’s authority to move at a certain speed – designed to remain in compliance.
  • Wayside units – These monitor switch positions report to both the dispatch system and train’s computer.

PTC systems issue a warning as a train nears an area with a speed restriction. However, if the train operator does not comply, the system can force the train to slow down.

What does that mean for railroad workers?

Working on the railroad is dangerous. And concerns may heighten prior to the fulfillment of safety regulations. Although improvements are in process, you should remain aware of potential safety issues, shortcuts and errors made. Doing so might be helpful in maintaining the overall safety of the railroad, as well as in exercising your options if you get injured on the job.

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