The U.S. Department of Transportation's (USDOT) Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a final rule on System Safety Programs (SSP).
The rule requires passenger railroads to proactively identify potential safety hazards across their operations and work to reduce and mitigate them. The rule will help prevent safety problems from escalating and resulting in incidents, injuries or deaths.
“Operating a railroad safely requires more than simply not having an incident – it demands looking for problems before they cause an injury or a fatality,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This new rule is a huge step in the right direction to make passenger rail service even safer.”
The SSP rule requires passenger railroads to implement, among other items, a defined and measurable safety culture; identify potential safety hazards in their operations and work to reduce or eliminate those hazards and to document and demonstrate how they will achieve compliance with FRA regulations.
“Safety has to be a consistent priority, and that means identifying problems before they escalate and turn into an incident,” said FRA Administrator Sarah E. Feinberg. “This new rule will help passenger railroads achieve the next generation of rail safety.”
“The System Safety Program rule includes proactive hazard analysis as a standard approach to identifying and addressing significant safety issues,” said FRA’s Chief Safety Officer Robert C. Lauby. “I believe that this approach will be key for the next level of safety.”
The next-generation, goal-oriented safety regulation aims to build on the current regulations, which serve as a safety foundation, to help the industry pivot from a reactive to a more proactive approach at achieving safety. Because of the comprehensive requirements the SSP entails, FRA will provide technical assistance on ways to set, achieve and measure safety culture and other important elements of the regulation.
“The System Safety Program rule has been a long time in the making, but it’s been worth the wait,” said FRA Passenger Rail Safety Director Dan Knote. “The Passenger Rail Division at FRA will provide guidance to all passenger railroads as they embark in this exciting and life-saving initiative.”
The rule will go into effect 60 days from the date of its publication. Within eight months of publishing the rule, all passenger railroads are required to have a meeting with employees who are directly affected by the rule to discuss their plan on the consultation process when developing a SSP.