September 21-27 is Rail Safety Week! Across Canada and the US, major railways, first responders and organizations like Operation Lifesaver are coming together to #StopTrackTragedies.
In 2019, 230 rail incidents were documented across Canada, resulting in 66 fatalities and 46 serious injuries; in the United States, 2,215 incidents were recorded with 293 fatalities and 807 injuries (Sources: Transportation Safety Board of Canada; Federal Railroad Administration). There is a critical need to raise awareness of safe behaviours near railway crossings, reduce instances of trespassing and encourage the public to be safe and vigilant when approaching train tracks.
With over 500 miles of track across New Brunswick and Maine, NBM Railways typically partners with local schools (through the Saint John-based PALS Program) and Operation Lifesaver to educate communities about rail safety through September. Due to the pandemic, school visits and other in-person workshops are no longer feasible.
“This will be the first year in many that we are not getting in front of students to talk about Rail Safety,” says Ian Simpson, General Manager of NBM Railways. “It’s more vital than ever that we leverage all channels available to educate our children and each other. We're working hard to ensure people to stay off the tracks, adhere to signs and signals, and stay alert.”
In place of school visits and events, this year’s rail safety campaign will centre on virtual outreach, a digital #StopTrackTragedies ad campaign, radio ads, community and municipality partnerships, and a youth rail safety video contest organized through Operation Lifesaver.
Rail Safety Tips, from Operation Lifesaver:
- Freight trains don't travel at fixed times, and schedules for passenger trains often change. Always expect a train at each highway-rail intersection at any time.
- All train tracks are private property. Never walk on tracks; it's illegal trespass and highly dangerous. It takes the average freight train traveling at 55 mph more than a mile—the length of 18 football fields—to stop. Trains cannot stop quickly enough to avoid a collision.
- The average locomotive weighs about 400,000 pounds or 200 tons; it can weigh up to 6,000 tons. This makes the weight ratio of a car to a train proportional to that of a soda can to a car. We all know what happens to a soda can hit by a car.
- Trains have the right of way 100% of the time over emergency vehicles, cars, the police and pedestrians.
- A train can extend three feet or more beyond the steel rail, putting the safety zone for pedestrians well beyond the three-foot mark. If there are rails on the railroad ties, always assume the track is in use, even if there are weeds or the track looks unused.
- Trains can move in either direction at any time. Sometimes its cars are pushed by locomotives instead of being pulled, which is especially true in commuter and light rail passenger service.
- Today's trains are quieter than ever, producing no telltale "clackety-clack." Any approaching train is always closer, moving faster, than you think.
- Remember to cross train tracks ONLY at designated pedestrian or roadway crossings, and obey all warning signs and signals posted there.
- Stay alert around railroad tracks. Refrain from texting, headphones or other distractions that would prevent you from hearing an approaching train; never mix rails and recreation.
Leading by Example
Across its three divisions – NB Southern Railway, Eastern Maine Railway and Maine Northern Railway – NBM Railways employs over 300 people. Its workforce is vastly diverse, comprising rail, maintenance, and mechanical crews; train crews; planners, and office staff.
“It's our responsibility to work with the community so we can all be safe,” says Rob Eagar, Director of Health and Safety with NBM Railways. “Ultimately, safe choices start from within. Our top priority is ensuring that our employees make it home safely at the end of the day. It's who we are."
The company has recently delivered a new safety program to all employees called SafeChoice. This program is designed to keep employees focused, help them avoid distractions, and encourage them look out for others with an aim to reduce incidents caused by human error. And in light of COVID-19 and social distancing measures, the railway has transitioned to rely heavily on virtual training.
“The Online training has proven to be very effective,” says Eagar. “Compliance is at 100%, and I really feel this is the new way forward for safety training.”
For more on NBM Railways, visit nbsouthern.com.