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.