Think Safety First Near Railway Crossings

Railway safety is a topic that cannot be emphasized enough for both the public and those working on the railway. According to Federal Railroad Administration statistics, 236 highway-rail grade crossing fatalities occurred in 2021, with nine in Alabama.

There are two types of protection at an at-grade rail crossing: passive and active. Passive protection consists of pavement markings, signs, and potentially flashing lights. These methods require motorists and pedestrians to use their discretion to cross a railroad track safely.

Active protection consists of measures used to physically prevent traffic movement at a railroad at-grade crossing triggered by an approaching train. Active protection is typically used when one or more of these conditions are present: urban areas, heavy traffic volumes, multi-lane roadways, proximity to traffic signals, nearby schools, a crossing with poor sight distance, or a crossing that has experienced fatal crashes.

Safety precautions for workers on railroads are essential and slightly different from other structures. Many railroads require a security clearance check and certified safety training to be on their right-of-way. When I am on a rail site, there must be no distractions. Using a cell phone must be done in a “clear zone,” completely away from even the slightest danger. The minimum safety requirements to be on a rail site include a Class 2 safety vest, steel toe boots, hard hat, safety glasses, and ear protection. A flagman or additional person is also necessary for safety if I must be on the railroad.

My experience with rail projects includes railroad crossing safety inventories, crossing construction inspection, track inspection, railroad bridge inspection, track design, and drainage design. I have worked on over 250 rail crossings, spanning ten states: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, New York, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Vermont.

railway crossing

Currently, Sain is doing railroad crossing construction inspection in various locations throughout Alabama. We are also coordinating with a railroad entity to make sight distance and roadway improvements. Our railway work aims to make rail crossing safer for the public.

All of us must remember that crossing a railroad can be dangerous. Always slow down and proceed across a railroad track with caution; assume a train is coming until you know the tracks are clear. Take your safety into your own hands, and do not depend on signs, gates, flashing lights, or bells. Use your eyes and ears, and exercise caution near any railroad.