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FRA strengthens rules for MOW workers

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) late last week issued two final rules to improve safety measures and expand alcohol and drug testing for maintenance-of-way (MOW) workers. One rule amends the Roadway Worker Protection regulation; the other revises FRA's existing alcohol and drug testing regulations and expands the requirements to now cover MOW employees, FRA officials said in a press release. The second rule fulfills a requirement of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. "Clear communication, multiple layers of safety and a rigorous alcohol and drug testing policy are critical to keep workers along and near tracks — and ultimately passengers and train crews — out of harm's way," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These are common sense rules that will help make our railroads safer." The Roadway Worker Protection final rule amendments will: • resolve different interpretations that have emerged since the rule went into effect nearly 20 years ago; • implement FRA's Railroad Safety Advisory Committee's (RSAC) consensus recommendations; • codify certain FRA Technical Bulletins; • codify a FAST Act mandate by adopting new requirements governing redundant signal protections; • address the safe movement of roadway maintenance machinery over signalized non-controlled track (not under a dispatcher’s control); and • amend certain qualification requirements for roadway workers. The amendments require job briefings to include information for MOW workers on the accessibility of the roadway worker in charge; set standards for how "occupancy behind" train authorities (when the authority for a work crew does not begin until the train has passed the area) can be used; and require annual training for any individual serving as a roadway worker in charge. In addition, FRA's rule changes will require another level of redundant signal protection, which is designed to help reduce preventable worker injuries and fatalities, said FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg. The FRA is broadening the alcohol-and-drug testing regulation to cover MOW employees in response to a congressional mandate and a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation, FRA officials said. Currently, an MOW employee is tested only when he or she has died as a result of an accident or incident. Under the new requirement, MOW employees will be fully subject to FRA's drug and alcohol testing that includes random testing, post-accident testing, reasonable suspicion testing, reasonable cause testing, pre-employment testing, return-to-duty testing and follow-up testing. The Control of Alcohol and Drug Use rule, which also clarifies interpretations since the testing rule went into effect in 1986, includes other substantive changes. In response to another NTSB recommendation, the rule changes will now allow drug testing of railroad and MOW employees that are believed to have caused an incident at a railroad crossing. The final Roadway Worker Protection rule takes effect April 1, 2017. The alcohol and drug testing rule goes into effect one year after publication.

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