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New NTSB work safety recommendations reinforce critical point

Some law makers and members of the general public get frustrated by redundancies in federal laws, state laws and regulations. Redundancies are often highlighted as evidence of governmental inefficiency. However, when it comes to preventing workplace accidents redundancies are actually critical to ensuring the safety of workers.

A few months back, two track workers on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system were killed by an oncoming BART train. When the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) began to investigate this particular accident, the agency determined that redundant safety protections are necessary in order to prevent similar transportation-related workplace accidents from occurring in the future.

A few weeks ago, the NTSB issued two safety recommendations characterized as urgent. The agency issued a letter to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) urging this agency to issue directives to U.S. transit-rail agencies in regards to this matter. Specifically, the NTSB has asked the FTA to require transit-rail agencies to mandate redundant protections for affected right-of-way workers. These redundancies may include the installation of certain safety devices designed to prevent train-worker collisions. The FTA has also been urged to review certain worker safety issues that may contribute to a risk of train-related collisions.

The chairman of the NTSB recently explained that, “Having redundant protection measures in place for track workers is not only a best practice but common sense." Though the NTSB’s recent call to action concerns track workers specifically, the logic that redundant protections may benefit all workers in hazardous industries is sound and should be embraced across the board.

Source: Progressive Railroading, “NTSB issues track-worker safety recommendations,” Dec. 20, 2013

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