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Railcar Safety Procedures

Date Posted: October 13, 1998

If your facility loads or unloads railcars, then you and your employees must be fully aware of the potential danger and exercise due precautions.

While injuries involving railcar accidents are usually infrequent, they almost always have long-term results.

Now is the time to review your railcar handling procedures paying particular attention to these three activities:

Dumping Cars

At face value, dumping cars appears easy until the slide sticks.

Back/shoulder injuries are the most common injuries when dealing with railcars because of the exertion required to operate poor slides. Mechanical assists are readily available which ease this task.

The frequency you receive cars and your own accident history are considerations in determining if mechanical assists are warranted.

Sampling Cars

This task involves mounting the car, and opening and closing hatches.

The primary concern here is proper lifting and avoiding falls. Fall protection equipment has evolved such that it is useable above railcars in many instances.

There is still no substitute for cautious workers and good footwear.

Also, instruct employees to be alert for placarded cars or cars which may have been treated.

Your employees must be aware of your policy for handing these cars.

Moving Cars

While the methods for moving railcars are numerous, a potential for serious injury exists in all cases.

Your system for avoiding injuries should be reviewed regularly. Above all, look at communication!

Anytime there is more than one person working trackside, a method of communication must be established. It may involve bells, horns, whistles, flashing lights, two-way radios, visual contact, or combinations of the same, but unless it's universally understood by everyone a serious potential for injury exists.

Use your next safety meeting to review signals. Remember, more times than not those accidents do not involve a "green crew", but are the result of casual operation which leads to improper assumption.

Regardless of your method of moving cars, it involved equipment which should be regularly inspected.

Your maintenance program should include periodic inspections of cables, winches, capstans, ropes, trackmobile, handjacks, wheel chokes, derail devices, warning systems, track conditions, etc.

Report car defects which jeopardize safety, such as faulty brakes, poor ladders or walkways, slides and hatches which "stick", prompting needed repairs.

Written by Mark Daniels, safety director, Harvest States Coop, St. Paul, MN.

Truck Maintenancce Checklist These railroad conditions should be inspected for: -Deterioration of railroad ties. -Spikes that are missing or popping out of the plate. -Cracking or split rails. -The gauge should also be checked if your tracks are used heavily. -Switch points and plates are oiled for free movement. -Bolts on all rail joints should be tighted.