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Think Safety First Near Railway Crossings


By: Brandon Kennedy, Traffic Designer, Sain Associates

from Sain Associates blog

Railway safety is a topic that cannot be emphasized enough for both the public and those working on the railway. According to Federal Railroad Administration statistics, 274 highway-rail grade crossing fatalities occurred in 2017, with 9 being in Alabama.

There are two types of protection at an at-grade rail crossing: passive and active protection. Passive protection consists of pavement markings, signs and potentially flashing lights. These methods require motorists and pedestrians to use their own discretion to safely cross a railroad track.

Active Protection consist of measures used to physically prevent the movement of traffic at a railroad at-grade crossing and is triggered by an approaching train. Active Protection is typically used when one or more of these conditions are present: urban areas, heavy traffic volumes, multi-lane roadways, proximity to traffic signals, nearby schools, a crossing with poor sight distance, or a crossing that has experienced fatal crashes.

Safety precautions for workers on railroads are of high importance and are slightly different than other structures. Many railroads require a security clearance check and certified safety training in order to be on their right-of-way. When I’m on a rail site, it is important that there are no distractions. Using a cell phone must be done in a “clear zone” completely away from even the slightest danger. The minimum safety requirements to be on a rail site include Class 2 safety vest, steel toe boots, hard hat, safety glasses, and ear protection. If I must be on the railroad, a flagman or additional person is also necessary for safety.

My experience with rail projects includes railroad crossing safety inventories, crossing construction inspection, track inspection, railroad bridge inspection, track design, and drainage design. I’ve worked on more than 250 rail crossings, which span across ten states: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, New York, New Hampshire, Oregon and Vermont.

Currently, Sain is doing Railroad Crossing Construction inspection in various locations throughout Alabama. We are also coordinating with a railroad entity to make sight distance and roadway improvements. The goal of all our railway work is to make rail crossing safer for the public.

It is crucial for all of us to remember that crossing a railroad can be dangerous. Always slow down and proceed across a railroad track with caution; assume a train is coming until you know for certain the tracks are clear. Take your safety into your own hands and do not depend on signs, gates, flashing lights, or bells. Use your eyes and ears, and exercise caution near any railroad.

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