Federal Railroad Administration Wants to Make Employee Use of Electronic Devices ‘Socially Unacceptable’

By Jon Street | November 26, 2012 | 4:58pm EST

Railroad investigators work the scene of an accident where four veterans were killed and 16 other people were injured when a train slammed into a parade float carrying the returning heroes to a banquet last Thursday in Midland, Texas on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Juan Carlos Llorca)

(CNSNews.com) – The Federal Railroad Administration is encouraging rail carriers to make employee use of electronic devices while they are on the job “socially unacceptable.”

A Nov. 26 blog post by the U.S. Department of Transportation said FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo was encouraging rail carriers to adopt programs to combat electronic distractions and challenging all railroad employees to make the improper use of such devices while on the job "socially unacceptable.”

USDOT wrote that using electronic devices endangers people who live and work near railroads and violates federal regulations as well as railroad operating rules.

The department also told rail carriers that “peer-to-peer programs,” such as the one used by Union Pacific, can develop a culture of safety where workers can “confidently” depend on each other.

“Incidents related to electronic device distractions can occur on a train as well as off,” DOT wrote. “The important thing to remember – whether you are a crew member, a supervisor, a maintenance way worker, or a worker in a yard office – is that accidents related to device distraction are 100 percent preventable...if employees are willing to step up and speak up when they see unsafe behavior.”

The blog reminded readers that strengthening the railroad industry is part of strengthening the economy but that transportation only works when it’s safe.

“That's why we need the industry to take decisive action against a practice already proven to have tragic consequences. With government, labor, and industry working together to create peer-to-peer programs – and whatever else it takes to eliminate improper use of electronic devices on the job – we can surely improve safety,” DOT blogged.

“The message is the same for the rail industry as it is for all of us: One text or call could wreck it all,” it added.

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