March 29, 2004

CHICAGO (March 29)—Next time you’re in the locomotive cab, take a look around and check to see if the unit is equipped with a first-aid kit.

If it’s not, the carrier that owns the locomotive is in violation of state law.

“The Illinois Commercial Transportation law [625 ILCS 5/18c-7401(6)] states that ‘All rail carriers shall provide a package containing the articles prescribed by the Commission, on each train or engine, for first aid to persons who may be injured in the course of operations of such trains,’” the Commission’s Rail Safety Program Administrator Michael E. Stead wrote March 24 to all railroads doing business in the state.

Stead issued his letter following reports from some UTU members that the locomotives to which they were assigned had been allowed into service without being equipped with a first-aid kit.

Local Legislative Representatives transmitted the members’ reports to Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo, who immediately referred the matter to Stead.

“We’re very pleased to see how fast the Commission turned around on this one,” Szabo said. “I sent a letter expressing the union’s concerns to Mike Stead March 23. A day later he issued a detailed letter to every railroad in the state. The exact words in his opening paragraph were: ‘I would like to remind your company of its responsibility under current Illinois law.’”

Stead then set forth an eight-point list of every bandage, sling, sterile dressing, roll of gauze and burn ointment the first-aid kit must carry, plus three optional but “recommended” items: a 4”x 5” instant cold compress, a pair of sterile eye pads and eyewash, and an American Medical Association First Aid Guide Booklet.

“We are hoping the Commission’s letter will have a prompt effect and that these first-aid kits will be showing up soon on all locomotives,” Szabo said.

“However,” he added, “because of recent cases in which rail carriers have been tardy in complying with Commission directives and rulings, we are urging our members to be on the alert and to report any further non-compliance to their Legislative Representative.”

Szabo said reporting a locomotive without a first-aid kit was very much like reporting a defective crew van.

“Note the number of the unit, the location where you were assigned to it and the shift and position you worked,” Szabo said.

“Also note the ownership of the unit,” he said. “Virtually all of the carriers now use run-through power on through trains, and we don’t want to mislead a Commission inspector into believing that a non-compliant unit belonged to member’s employer when it really came from a foreign railroad. All units working in Illinois must have first-aid kits, but if one of them doesn’t we want to make sure that the Commission’s complaint goes to the real owner.”

Needed information should be written down and turned over to the Legislative Representative of the employee’s UTU Local.

“He’ll forward it to me,” Szabo said. “And I’ll file a complaint with the Commission, which will investigate.

“But the process can’t begin until a member takes action,” Szabo said. “Membership involvement is the foundation of our Union’s effectiveness. Nothing happens without it.”