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February 28, 2022
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Rail Movement Safety Tips and Tricks

Failure to perform safe rail movement causes injury’s, fatalities, and damage to equipment and property every year. Below are safe practice reminders and ideas to help negate potential incidents and promote safe practices:

  • Always have a plan before starting the rail movement. Ground person walks the tracks to remove derailers. Remove any unused chocks, blue flags, or anything that can create trip hazards. The ground person can preset switches while visibly inspecting the tracks and switches. Ensure all railcars are past the switch line to avoid accidental contact.
  • Ensure all personnel and equipment are off of the tracks and personnel are aware of the upcoming rail movement.
  • Every person involved in the rail movement should have a radio with a designated channel for rail movement only. Ensure radios have a fresh battery before starting.
  • Always have a guard posted to prevent pedestrian and vehicle access at all crosswalks, intersections, and crossings before approaching during rail movement.
  • High visible reflective vests should be included in the ground persons PPE.
  • Clear communication is key to safe rail movement. A repeat command rule should be established on the radio between the rail mover operator and the ground person. For example: the ground person says on the radio “Standby while I make the switch” and the rail mover operator reply’s “Standing by while you make the switch.” The rail mover operator knows to remain at all stop until notified by the ground person with further instructions.
  • The “Danger Zone” is the area where personnel step in between railcars or rail movers to connect or disconnect knuckles and air couplers, and open or close angle cocks. This area poses the greatest risk for the ground person. The ground person can never enter the Danger Zone without informing the rail mover operator on the radio and hearing the rail mover operators repeat command acknowledging the Danger Zone.
  • When removing chocks and blue flags, store the chocks and blue flags as to not create a new trip hazard.
  • Manual brakes on the railcars should not be released before the rail mover attached has full air pressure built for the air brake system.
  • Rail mover operator sounds the horn before any movement in any direction.
  • The rail mover operator should never travel faster than the ground person can walk. “Riding” the railcar as a ground person is not recommended as dismounting is usually done on sloped gravel surfaces and has potential for trip hazards.
  • Ground person gives accurate distance readings on the radio to the rail mover operator to ensure safe connecting, spotting, and making switches of railcars. For example, the ground person tells the rail mover operator “5 railcars to connect, the rail mover operator responds, “5 railcars to connect”. The countdown continues with the appropriate response from the rail mover operator to close the distance, such as 4 railcars to connect, 3 railcars to connect, 2 railcars to connect, 1 railcar, half railcar. After the half a railcar response from the rail mover operator, the ground person will keep the speak button depressed on the radio so there is no interruption and say, “20 feet, 10 feet, 5…4…3…2…1… connected”.
  • Ground person sets required brakes and chocks per the number of railcars and grade of the tracks before telling the rail mover operator to disconnect.
  • After rail movement is complete, install derailers and blue flags at all rail entrances to the facility.

Source: Glenn Dickey, All-Safe Program Manager at AgriSphere Services, LLC, Decatur, IL:


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Safety Tip of the Week is edited by Managing Editor Tucker Scharfenberg and published each Monday by Grain Journal, Decatur, IL

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