The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has just issued a safety advisory with reminders about the correct and safe use of portable derails. This comes after a fatal crash that occurred in late August.
As many of our readers know, portable maintenance-of-way (MOW) derails are attached to uncontrolled train tracks when crews will be working on them or in instances where a person or animal has gotten onto the tracks. Their purpose is to slowly derail any oncoming train in an emergency situation where a controlled derail would pose less of a danger than allowing the train to proceed.
Train crew didn’t see a portable derail left on the tracks
Regarding this recent fatal incident, according to the FRA, “The train crew, which did not see the derail, operated their train directly into the derail, striking it at approximately nine miles per hour and derailing the first two cars of their train. The conductor, who was riding the lead car, was fatally injured when the car rolled over.”
While these derails are not required by law to have lights or other markings to make them easily visible, the FRA advisory recommends using ones that are “equipped with a portable light or, at a minimum, reflectorized flags in low-light conditions.”
Perhaps even more importantly, the advisory recommends having processes in place to ensure that these devices are removed from the track when the work or emergency situation is over. Some railroads require forms to be filled out when derails are installed and removed. Others place tags on the steering wheels of the vehicles used by the railway workers to remind them to remove the derails.
Even controlled derails can result in devastating and even fatal injuries to those working on the train as well as those near the tracks. While the FRA and railroads take safety seriously, any railway occupation can be a dangerous one. If you or a loved one has suffered injuries, it’s crucial to know about your rights to compensation under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).