The National Transportation Safety Board has issued an “urgent safety recommendation” asking the railroad to start using a workplace safety device to protect employees working on the tracks. This recommendation comes less than three weeks after a Metro North train hit and killed a worker near West Haven.
The employee died when he was hit by a New York-bound train traveling around 70 mph. The NTSB has not yet reported on the cause of the accident. However, the agency recommend that Metro North begin using a technique called shunting, which uses a device attached to the track that tells dispatchers that the track is closed. Only when track workers remove the device would the track reopen.
The NTSB said that a student controller had turned off the closed signal without getting approval from track workers. Metro North does not currently use shunting, which would have prevented the type of error that occurred. The chairman of the NTSB has said that Metro North safety protocols are ineffective.
Metro-North has announced that it is working to begin using the shunting device. In the meantime, the railroad has changed its procedures for closing and opening tracks to improve workplace safety. It now requires track controllers to obtain permission from a supervisor before unblocking a blocked track. Before the fatality, track controllers could unblock a track based on permission from a track worker.
Source: Hartford Currant, “After Worker’s Death, NTSB Urges Metro-North To Improve Safety Procedures,” Jun. 17, 2013.