June 24, 2013

CHICAGO (June 24)– At the request of the UTU Illinois Legislative Board, investigators from the Illinois Commerce Commission and the Federal Railroad Administration are questioning an April 19 General Order by the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad ordering all yard crews to take their lunch period aboard the locomotive.

“Putting aside what is required under the local collective bargaining agreement, we feel that this order attempts to circumvent the intentions of [Illinois] Administrative Code 1545.210 ‘Lunch Rooms,’” wrote Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy in a May 21 letter to the Commission’s rail safety program administrator, Mike Stead.

Guy also expressed his alarm that many of the jobs affected by IHB Circular Notice No. 30 rely on lead units that lack toilets and other essentials to personal sanitation called for not only in the Illinois Code but also in the Code of Federal Regulations 229.137, titled “Sanitation, general requirements.”

“Requiring operating crews, that are routinely performing duties outside of the locomotive cab in all kinds of conditions and elements, to eat their meals on the locomotive without the ability to cleanse themselves before and after is unhealthy and unsanitary, and in our opinion, non-compliant,” Guy wrote. He said the “crew packs” issued to crew members lunching on board “are no substitute for a proper and required washing facility, either on a locomotive or at a stationary dedicated facility.”

In a June 14 letter Stead told Guy the Commission is unsure whether the IHB’s directive violates the Illinois Administrative Code because the Commission never before had received, much less ruled upon, a Complaint about lunching on the engine.

However, on May 30, 2013, the IHB was cited by the FRA in a 6180.96 report for violating the provisions of 49 CFR Part 229.137 (b) (1) ii and issued a Defect, with the understanding that further incidents would result in violations being issued.

“A ‘Defect’ is a less serious form of citation than a violation,” Guy said. “It carries no civil penalty. It’s a sort of ‘shot across the bow’ that warns the carrier that it’s out of compliance and that a violation, that could carry a civil penalty, could be the next step if the non-compliance is not remedied.

“Hopefully, this misunderstanding will be cleared up very quickly and IHB crews will be provided the sanitary and healthy conditions that are called for in state and federal codes,” Guy said.

“Unless there are compelling reasons to keep a switch crew in the field throughout their entire shift there seems to be no reason why they can’t return to their welfare facility and eat meals in appropriate surroundings that include proper sanitation facilities.”