Railroad Industry Collaboration Enters New Phase in Working to Prevent Employee Switching Fatalities

WASHINGTON –Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo praised the work of the Switching Operations Fatality Analysis (SOFA) Working Group and issued a call to action for the rail industry to take steps to help prevent railroad employee deaths.

This comes in response to events of the past five years during which 55 train and engine service employees have died while engaged in rail yard switching operations. SOFA is a decade-old voluntary, non-regulatory workplace safety partnership.

“The risks to employees engaged in switching operations are real and ever-present, and injuries and deaths resulting from such activities are seldom random or simply unfortunate events,” said Szabo. “Since its inception in 1998, SOFA’s rigorous analyses have shown many switching fatalities occur due to multiple contributing factors and by identifying underlying patterns future casualties can be prevented.”

Szabo noted that the Working Group’s longstanding efforts complement the Federal Railroad Administration’s current Risk Reduction Program.

The current SOFA group is comprised of eleven career railroaders who together have over 400 years’ industry experience. Joining its FRA facilitators and management consultants, the group includes representatives from the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen, the United Transportation Union, the Association of American Railroads, and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.