FAMES report makes recommendations to avoid adjacent track fatalities

Written by Mischa Wanek-Libman, editor

The Fatality Analysis of Maintenance-of-way Employees and Signalmen (FAMES) Committee published a series of recommendations to improve roadway worker projection when trackwork occurs where adjacent track is present. Between 1997 and 2012, 25 percent of roadway worker fatal accidents have occurred on adjacent track.


FAMES classified 11 of 44 total fatalities as adjacent track fatalities following the analysis of 29 cases where an adjacent track was present and found, in those 11 cases, the fatal accident occurred on the adjacent track immediately next to where the work was actually being performed. The FAMES report said the available data indicates that all 11 adjacent track fatalities occurred on controlled track where track centers were 19 feet or less.

A snapshot of the findings include:

  • In 10 of the 11 (91%) adjacent track fatalities, Roadway Maintenance Machines (RMMs) were present and in use on the track where work was being performed.
  • In six of 11 (55%) adjacent track fatalities, roadway workers were struck while conducting training or observing surfacing operations.
  • In at least seven of the 11 adjacent track fatalities, the affected roadway work groups consisted of four or fewer roadway workers.

Following the analysis, the FAMES Committee made the following recommendations:

  • Establish adjacent track protection in accordance with Federal Railroad Administration regulations, carrier rules and as safety conditions dictate.
  • Never use the adjacent track to walk around or observe work unless on-track safety has been established on the adjacent track.
  • During the on-track safety briefing:
    • Identify if RMMs will be present and take actions to manage any additional risks associated with their presence.
    • Recognize that RMMs introduce noise, reduce visibility, present a striking hazard and add to the complexity of the work being performed, especially where adjacent tracks are present.
    • Communicate the type of on-track safety in effect, notification and warning procedures for approaching movements, and operating procedures for the adjacent track.
    • Designate place(s) of safety for roadway workers to occupy upon the approach of a train and include specific methods for communicating when it is safe for roadway workers to resume work.
  • Prior to authorizing movements through working limits on an adjacent track, the Employee-in-Charge must notify roadway workers and receive verification that personnel and equipment are clear of that adjacent track.
  • Roadway work groups, especially small surfacing gangs, should have a heightened awareness of adjacent track risks when working in multi-track territory.
  • As a supplement to on-track safety protection, RMM operators should sound their horn whenever they observe movements approaching on the adjacent track.
  • When using Train Approach Warning, watchmen/lookouts must focus their sole attention to the detection of approaching movements.
  • If you see someone fouling an unprotected track, adjacent or not, tell them to move to the clear.

The full report is available on the FRA website.

Categories: Class 1, Commuter/Regional, Intercity, ON Track Maintenance, Rapid Transit/Light Rail, Safety/Training, Shortline/Regional, Track Machinery