Good morning. Welcome to the Board room of the National Transportation Safety
Board. I am Christopher Hart, and it is my privilege to serve as Acting Chairman
of the NTSB. Joining me are my fellow Board Members: Member Robert Sumwalt,
Member Mark Rosekind and Member Earl Weener.
I would also like to welcome members of the Fatality Analysis of
Maintenance-of-Way Employees and Signalmen Committee (FAMES). FAMES is a
collaborative rail industry safety effort among railroads, labor unions, and the
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
Today, we meet in open session, as required by the Government in the Sunshine
Act, to consider a Special Investigation Report on Railroad and Rail Transit
Roadway Worker Protection. (The roadway is the strip of land on which the track
is constructed, also called the wayside).
This Report is a study of fatal accidents involving roadway workers. On
behalf of my fellow Board members and the entire NTSB staff, I offer our
condolences to the families and friends of the workers who lost their lives in
these accidents and wish a speedy recovery to those who were injured.
We cannot change what happened, but in finding commonalities among these
accidents, we hope to help prevent similar accidents in the future.
We have come a long way since a time when railroad work was the second most
hazardous occupation in the country, surpassed only by coal mining. In 1889, the
first year for which the Interstate Commerce Commission compiled accident
statistics, 1,972 railroaders lost their lives on the job - one out of every
Today, even the most hazardous occupations are comparatively safer. In 2013,
there were a total of 4,405 fatal occupational
nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's a
little more than three per 100,000
workers across all occupations. Even
in the most hazardous occupation, the fatality rate is about one out of 780, and
railroad work is no longer even among the most hazardous occupations.
But it takes vigilance to keep a safety record strong and to continue making
Back in the 19th century, workers in the running trades – meaning
the engineers, firemen, conductors, and brakemen – were particularly at risk.
Those occupations were so dangerous that a letter to Locomotive Engineers'
Monthly Journal compared the life of the engineer to "a constant cavalry or
Today, the industry has become far safer, thanks to railroads, regulators and
unions. Accident rates have fallen among those who operate the iron horses. It
is those who maintain the way for them who are at rising risk.
Today's troublesome trend is among roadway workers, not in the running
trades. Continued workplace safety depends on identifying and reversing such
trends early, and taking action to prevent further loss of life.
The number of roadway workers not in transit rail who lost their lives on the
job has increased every year between 2010 and 2013, when the annual total
reached 11, the most since 1995. Roadway worker fatalities were up in transit
rail as well, bringing total roadway worker fatalities to 15 last year.
The presentations you are going to hear today will describe some of the
circumstances of these deaths and the safety issues that they raise. Very often,
the authors of this report identify gaps in the layers of protection developed
to prevent just such tragic losses.
You will also hear some statistical information on the regulatory and work
environment in which these accidents occurred, which may help to establish the
efficacy of the present inspection regime.
The roadway workers who repair and maintain our rail infrastructure help to
ensure the safety of rail transportation. Today, we will explore ways to enhance
In turn, they will continue to contribute to the safety of their counterparts
in the running trades and to the safety of the general public – including me and
probably most of you – who ride the rails.
Now I will turn to Deputy Managing Director Steve Klejst.
Deputy Managing Director Klejst.