November 27, 2002

CHICAGO (Nov. 27)–The Illinois Legislative Board of the UTU has asked the Illinois Commerce Commission to initiate the process of establishing safety standards for the walkways in railroad switching yards through an amendment to the Illinois Administrative Code.

“Illinois Compiled Statutes under 625 section 18c-7401 (1) requires each rail carrier to maintain its ‘equipment, track and other property in this State in such a manner as to pose no undue risk to its employees,’” wrote Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo in a November 19 letter to Illinois Commerce Commission Chmn. Kevin K. Wright.

“Ensuring that railroad-yard walkways have a reasonably regular surface and are maintained clear of vegetation, debris, standing water and other obstructions is a genuine safety concern for the railroad employees I represent,” Szabo told Wright.

The letter noted that a substantial number of other states already have established safety codes covering the walkways used by rail employees. A copy of the Oregon code, one of the most comprehensive currently in use, was enclosed for the Commission’s information.

While the letter is expected to initiate an administrative process that ultimately will establish a new code, Szabo said the UTU also has opened a dialogue with the Illinois Railroad Association to discuss appropriate language for any new standards.

“I believe the process will work better and the interests of both the rail carriers and the employees will best be served if the industry is a participant in the development of new safety standards,” Szabo said. “My hope is that together we will agree on standards that benefit the railroad industry as well as the employees I represent.”

Szabo noted that “most of the carriers already have internal policies providing for a reasonably clear, regular and smooth surface in areas of railroad yards where employees are expected to work on the ground.

“However, in the real world economic considerations sometimes cause these internal guidelines to be overlooked,” he said. “Maintaining safe walkway standards should be a matter of economic sense as well as common sense. By working together to develop sensible standards we should be able to make walkway safety a reality.”