Technical Reports

Yardmasters and Yard Safety in the U.S. Railroad Industry: An Exploratory Study

  • 01
  • Jan
  • 2007
AUTHOR: Stephen Reinach and Alex Viale
SUBJECT: Human Factors
KEYWORDS: Yardmaster, railroad switching yard, classification yard, railroad safety, switching operations, yard operations
ABSTRACT: This report presents the results of an exploratory study of railroad yardmasters. The purpose was to identify issues and risks associated with yardmaster tasks and responsibilities that have the potential to compromise safety in railroad classification (switching) yards. Analysis of 2004 Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) train accident and incident data helped to determine the involvement of yardmasters in train accidents and injuries, and focus groups with yardmasters provided information about yardmaster tasks and responsibilities and the yardmaster’s role in yard switching safety. Analysis of FRA train accident/incident data indicates that yardmasters contributed to less than one-fifth of 1 percent of reportable train accidents (7 out of 3,775) and one-fifth of 1 percent of all employee-on-duty injuries (13 out of 5,693). Fifty-six yardmasters participated in nine focus groups conducted in three U.S. cities. Focus groups addressed five topic groupings: training and experience; communications and information flow; stress, distractions, difficulties, and workload; fatigue, staffing, and work schedules; and best practices and lessons learned. Yardmasters identified and discussed a number of issues related to each topic, as well as provided lessons learned and best practices. Lastly, the report suggests several future studies to further enhance FRA’s understanding of the yardmaster’s role in railroad yard switching safety.