MINERAL SPRINGS, N.C. — CSX conductor Phillip E. Crawford Jr., 33, and locomotive engineer James Gregory Hadden, 36, were killed early May 24 in a rear-end collision here involving two CSX freight trains, according to news reports. Mineral Springs is some 30 miles south of Charlotte.

Crawford was a member of UTU Local 970, Abbeville, S.C. He signed on with CSX in October 2005.

Two crew members on the lead train, which was hit from the rear, suffered minor injuries, reported the Charlotte Observer.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Railroad Administration are investigating the North Carolina train collision, and a member of the UTU Transportation Safety Team is assisting the NTSB.

A CSX spokesperson told the Associated Press that the rear-end collision occurred on northbound tracks and involved one train enroute to Hamlet, N.C., from New Orleans, and another enroute to Charlotte from southern Georgia. Each train was pulled by two locomotives; one pulling nine freight cars, and the other 12, said CSX.

In Ft. Worth, a BNSF switch foreman and UTU Local 564 member, Paul Young, 28, with almost seven years’ service, lost both legs and an arm after being hit by a train in BNSF’s Alliance Terminal of May 23. Young, a resident of Haslet, Texas, reportedly was performing a gravity switch at an ethanol plant at the time of the accident.

It’s winter — the three months of the year during which a significant number of yard fatalities and career-ending injuries occur.

The FRA says risk is concentrated in cold-weather states, but those in warmer climates are not immune, because darkness is a factor along with cold weather and slippery ground conditions that contribute to falls.

An elevated risk during winter is the risk of being struck on mainline track by a passing train, says the FRA.

Of special concern this winter are new workers and experienced workers who have recently been brought back from furlough. “Productivity expectations should adjust to employee experience,” says the FRA, which urges that crew composition should pair an inexperienced employee with experienced employees when possible.

The UTU participates in the Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) working group, which includes labor, management and the FRA — all collaborating to bring railroaders home to their families in one piece.

SOFA’s five lifesaving tips can save yours:

  • Secure all equipment before action is taken
  • Protect employees against moving equipment
  • Discuss safety at the beginning of a job or when work changes
  • Communicate before action is taken
  • Mentor less experienced employees to perform service safely

 The SOFA working group also warns of special switching hazards:

  • Close clearances
  • Shoving movements
  • Unsecured cars
  • Free rolling rail cars
  • Exposure to mainline trains
  • Tripping, slipping or falling
  • Unexpected movement of cars
  • Adverse environmental conditions
  • Equipment defects
  • Motor vehicles or loading devices
  • Drugs and alcohol

Going home to your family in one piece requires situational awareness. SOFA’s life-saving tips are proven to reduce your risk of a career-ending injury or death while on the job.

By UTU International President Mike Futhey

What should have been a joyous holiday season ended all too tragically Dec. 29 with the death of 44-year-old UTU Local 1000 member Samuel Lundy in a switching accident in Minneapolis. He leaves behind a loving wife and three children.

Brother Lundy was the eighth UTU member killed in the line of duty during 2009. We grieve for each of them, and I am inspired by the somber words of Local 1000 President John Haggarty, who observed — and this applies to each of our fallen brothers — “If this could have happened to him, it could happen to any of us.”

Railroaders work in one of the most — if not the most — dangerous industries in America, where accidents, rather than resulting in sprains and broken bones, too often result in career-ending injuries and death.

Death and dismemberment stalk operating crews every moment of their working hours, and there is no greater priority — none! — than returning home to our families in one piece.

Worker safety is the number-one priority of every labor union, and the UTU works closely with every labor organization in this effort. There is no stronger bond among labor organizations, and the working men and women in America, than the joint objective of improving workplace safety.

Within the UTU, we have three separate safety initiatives in place. This is in addition to our efforts at the negotiating table; our joint initiatives with other labor organizations; our communications and meetings with federal regulatory agencies, Congress and state legislatures; and our Designated Legal Counsel program.

Progress is being made, but we cannot, should not, and will not retreat from this fight. It is the most vital duty we owe our membership.

Our most recent safety initiative was the creation, earlier this year, of the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, whose mission is to identify and communicate best practices and techniques to improve situational awareness and keep situational awareness at its highest level.

Additionally, the UTU participates with other labor organizations and rail management in the Federal Railroad Administration sponsored Switching Operations Fatalities Analysis (SOFA) working group, whose mission is to develop recommendations for reducing fatalities in switching operations. The SOFA group has developed best practices for yard workers to help ensure their safety.

The UTU also has a 13-member Transportation Safety Team that assists National Transportation Safety Board investigators in on-the-scene determination of facts in rail-related accidents. Members of this team are selected based on their knowledge of operating rules and understanding of general railroad operations, train movements and dispatching. Team members also receive special training in NTSB procedures. A team member was on the scene within hours of Brother Lundy’s death to assist the NTSB in its investigation.

In Washington, the UTU National Legislative Office spends a considerable portion of each workday in meetings with FRA, Federal Transit Administration, Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration and Federal Aviation Administration safety officials; the NTSB; other labor organizations, academics, and key congressional staff discussing and pushing for improved workplace safety improvements.

Our state legislative directors similarly are involved, on a daily basis, in investigating member concerns and working with state officials and lawmakers on workplace safety issues. These efforts include gaining state regulations requiring safer walkways alongside yard tracks, improved sanitation and crew facilities, and protecting bus operators from unruly passengers.

Within hours of Brother Lundy’s fatal accident, Minnesota State Legislative Director Phil Qualy called on “all railroad management teams voluntarily to clear our walkways of snow and ice, to rebuild and maintain the walkways at yard, industry, and mainline alike, and help us advance safety and service in this industry.”

Finally, our Designated Legal Counsel are an essential component of our workplace safety efforts. These attorneys are uniquely qualified in bringing civil actions against railroads under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), which is one of the best friends railroaders have in pressuring railroads to improve workplace safety.

Please visit the various safety-related pages on the UTU Web site to keep informed and stay up to date on best practices designed to bring you home safely to your family.

And when you do spot a workplace safety problem, immediately inform the carrier, and also inform your local legislative representative and your state legislative director at your earliest opportunity, providing as many facts as you are able regarding location and the nature of the safety problem.

I pledge to each of you that workplace safety will remain the UTU’s single highest priority.

Career-ending personal injuries and fatalities have continued to increase in the rail industry.

To educate members on the circumstances of these incidents, and in attempts to avoid them in the future, the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, appointed by International President Mike Futhey, urges that each of you continue to look out for each other and forward your ideas and concerns about workplace safety to them so they may address them.

Interactive communication and “looking out for each other” is imperative to bringing us all home from work in one piece.

To ensure we all go home to our families in one piece, the UTU Rail Safety Task Force asks for a 100 percent commitment to rules compliance and to the following eight activities:

  1. Job briefings: Ensure all crew members are present for job briefings, and focus on risk assessment.
  2. Situational awareness: Constantly be aware of your surroundings and maintain situational awareness to avoid risks associated with the required tasks and work within the limits of your capabilities.
  3. On/off standing equipment: Keep hands free of other objects and maintain three point contact, always being vigilant for equipment movement.
  4. Avoid slips, trips and falls: Keep your eyes on the footpath and report any unsafe walking conditions to your local legislative representative for handling.
  5. Radio communications: Always use proper identification, provide car counts when shoving, do not engage in excessive chatter; use “over and out.”
  6. Put safety first: Performing a task safety is more important than the time it takes to complete it. The only “good move” is one done 100 percent by the rules.
  7. Ask questions: If any uncertainty arises, take the time to ask questions. Do not take risks or assume anything.
  8. Be in charge of your own safety: Do not let others set YOUR level of safety. Report harassment and intimidation.

For more information on the UTU Rail Safety Task Force, and to communicate with the task force, visit the task force’s interactive Web page by clicking:

this link

In solidarity,

UTU Rail Safety Task Force
Greg Hynes, UTU assistant Arizona state legislative director
Steve Evans, UTU Arkansas state legislative director
Jerry Gibson, UTU Michigan state legislative director
Scott Olson, UTU Arizona state legislative director