February 17, 2024

FRA issues safety bulletin on rolling equipment after engineer’s death


The Federal Railroad Administration is warning rail workers about the dangers of rolling equipment following the death of a Norfolk Southern worker last week in Alabama. 

The incident happened just after 5 p.m. on Feb. 7 in Decatur, Alabama, when 55-year-old train engineer Chris Wilson, a 30-year veteran, died after several uncontrolled train cars crashed into his locomotive.

The cause is under investigation by the FRA and on-site investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board. 

In a safety bulletin issued Tuesday, the FRA said the fatality occurred during yard switching operations.

“At the time of the accident, [Wilson] was operating a locomotive on the east side of the yard and working with a conductor and brakeman to switch cars. Another crew was switching cars on the west side of the yard and had set out 35 cars. At some point, those 35 cars from the west side of the yard track rolled uncontrolled towards the east, colliding with the locomotive, occupied by the engineer, that was located on the east yard track switching lead. The collision ejected the engineer from the locomotive cab and the engineer succumbed to his injuries.”

Eddie Hall, national president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, said the “tragic loss underscores the safety risks present in railroading, even in the controlled environment of a railyard.”

In its safety bulletin, the FRA said:

1. Employees should understand the importance of complying with railroad rules for securement of rolling equipment.

2. Railroads should provide employees adequate training on railroad operating rules and procedures for proper securement of rolling equipment.

3. Railroads should provide employees appropriate periodic oversight of compliance with railroad operating rules and procedures for proper securement of rolling equipment.

4. Railroads should empower employees to seek immediate clarification of any safety rule, including rules related to the securement of equipment.

5. Railroads should remind employees of the dangers associated with improperly secured rolling equipment.


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