Package introduced to improve railroad worker safety

HARRISBURG, Jan. 29 – State Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Westmoreland/Armstrong, has introduced a four-bill package designed to improve safety for railroad employees.

"Rail freight transportation is on the increase in the United States," Petrarca said. "Not only because of an increase in consumer goods shipping, but also because it's a way to transport crude oil long distances. Believe it or not, crude oil is the single, fastest-growing rail-transported commodity in the U.S.

"Because rail freight transportation is a $60 billion industry, supporting 221,000 jobs across the country, and because it reduces road congestion, highway fatalities and fuel consumption, it's important that we continue to ensure the vitality of this industry, while also protecting the health and safety of its employees and the general public."

Petrarca worked with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen to develop these bills.

The first bill (H.B. 1090) would establish uniform requirements for drivers hired by contract carriers to transport railroad crews. Railroads contract with these carriers to transport small groups of railroad employees to and from crew change points and between terminals.

"In many instances, railroad workers are sleeping or otherwise not paying attention to the transport driver," Petrarca said. "This bill would help ensure workers' safety during these transports with driver standards regardless of the provider or railroad."

The second bill (H.B. 1494) would require the care and maintenance of whistle board signs. Whistle boards are whistle post signs posted beside the track a certain distance from a crossing to alert engineers to blow the whistle as the train approaches a railroad crossing. This serves as a warning about the oncoming train to the public.

The third bill (H.B. 1493) would prohibit the operation of locomotives in reverse, except in emergency or certain other situations.

"When a train operates in reverse with the long-nose forward or rear-facing, the engineer cannot always see where he is going, which increases the chance for an accident. It also exposes the crew to diesel emissions from the exhaust stacks that normally flow in the other direction," Petrarca said

The final bill (H.B. 1123) would require photo identification for all railroad employees and that it be sufficient identification for police if an incident occurs.