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FTA Proposes Mandatory Minimum Standards to Protect Rail Transit Workers

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) on March 22 announced that, for the first time, it is proposing mandatory minimum standards to protect those who perform track work for rail transit agencies nationwide.

Under a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) (download below) transit agencies nationwide would be required to “create a protection program geared at personnel who work on or around the tracks, implement comprehensive training for workers, and ensure that unsafe acts and conditions are reported.” The proposed rule, FTA says, would apply to rail agencies and state safety oversight agencies (SSOAs) that are tasked with overseeing safety, “marking a significant step toward protecting those working on transit railways.”

Unsafe practices and conditions place rail transit workers at risk of being killed or seriously injured while performing work, FTA stated in a release. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and FTA’s Transit Advisory Committee for Safety both have recommended regulatory action to address rail transit worker roadway safety.

According to data reported in the National Transit Database, between January 1, 2008, and October 31, 2022, 22 workers were killed, and 120 workers were seriously injured in rail transit roadway safety events.

The proposed rule would create the following requirements for rail transit agencies:

  • “Adopt and implement a Roadway Worker Protection (RWP) Program to improve worker safety consistent with Federal and state safety requirements.
  • “Establish minimum RWP program elements, including job safety briefings, lone worker protection, and good faith safety challenges.
  • “Document RWP programs in a manual that includes a track access guide.
  • “Implement an RWP training program that addresses all transit workers responsible for on-track safety by position.”

According to FTA, the proposed rule would also require SSOAs to review and approve worker protection program elements, monitor implementation, and conduct annual audits to ensure compliance.

“This rule will ultimately save lives,” said FTA Acting Administrator Veronica Vanterpool. “Once this rule is finalized, it will support safer conditions for workers who perform critical tasks that keep transit operating efficiently and safely.”

FTA says it is also seeking feedback on the level of participation that safety committees, which are established by the rail transit agencies, may have in the proposed rule, including their involvement in approving, monitoring, or overseeing the implementation of a rail transit worker protection program.

FTA encourages members of the public, transit agencies, State Safety Oversight Agencies, unions, and other interested parties to submit comments on this proposed rulemaking for the transit industry to the Federal Register comment docket, which will be open for 60 days until May 24, 2024.