The US Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has warned railroad operators it is proposing “mandatory minimum standards” for track worker safety. It is the first time nationwide rules would be put in place to protect the people on the front line of rail upgrades and safety work. 

The current National Safety Plan only provides “voluntary standards” so the change to “mandatory minimum” is an important industry shift. 

The proposed rule would require rail companies and agencies to: “create a protection program geared at personnel who work on or around the tracks, implement comprehensive training for workers, and ensure that unsafe acts and conditions are reported.”

The proposed rule would apply to rail agencies and state safety oversight agencies (SSOAs) that are tasked with overseeing safety, marking a significant step toward protecting those working on transit railways, the FTA explained. 

“The workers who repair and maintain America’s transit railways deserve to be safe on the job,” said Transportation Minister Pete Buttigieg. “We are proud to propose the first-ever rule requiring worker protection standards for all rail transit agencies, and I look forward to partnering with transit agencies across the country to advance this vital rule and keep workers safe.” 

According to data reported in the National Transit Database, between January 1, 2008, and October 31, 2022, 22 workers were killed, and 120 workers were seriously injured in rail transit roadway safety events.

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SSOAs will also be required to review and approve worker protection programs, monitor implementation, and conduct annual audits to ensure compliance.

The proposed rule would create the following requirements for rail transit agencies:

  1. Adopt and implement a Roadway Worker Protection (RWP) Program to improve worker safety consistent with Federal and state safety requirements.
  2. Establish minimum RWP program elements, including job safety briefings, lone worker protection, and good faith safety challenges.
  3. Document RWP programs in a manual that includes a track access guide.
  4. Implement an RWP training program that addresses all transit workers responsible for on-track safety by position.