Saturday, July 13, 2013

Train wrecks and smaller government: workplace safety, cost cutting issues.

Fuel train in Quebec went boom, it's employee's fault. According to any company, all safety failures are employee's fault and never faulty equipment fault or company negligence. Ever.

This situation is the case no matter where you go--when something goes wrong even in a circular coal-feed rail yard, it's the employee's fault and the violation can be found in the safety book, if you're working in a union shop.  And if you don't violate safety procedures at the direction of the company, you get a poor performance review and fail to get promoted.  This is tradition, and was even the case in non-union Motorola's factories where OSHA, not union contract, held sway. And we know how under-funded OSHA has been since our small governmental small minds have had anything to do about it.

Let's review some railroad history: in its earliest days, trains would careen down steep slopes and jump the tracks, or run clean off of a drop-off caused by a bridge getting washed out or sabotaged.  That's why the Deadman's Stick got invented.  Yeah--it's an arrangement where the brake is applied to the train as default, released only in the presence of a live man to keep it held off.  Man dies by, say, train robber or Indian, train stops dead on its tracks.  Man dies, train's dead too. Locomotive engines have been manufactured with the brakes always on ever since.

Corker question: who defeated the train's Deadman's Stick?  Negligence doesn't explain the fact that it takes an action, not an inaction, for taking the brake off.

Part of my job at the power plant included railroad controls out in the coal yard.  That train wasn't manned either, and brakes weren't an issue because it's the radio control that actively kept the brakes off when the train was in motion.  When the radio control was off,  the brake was always engaged as default position.

That wasn't the only railroad involved with the power plant, either. On another track, we had tanker car full of chlorine gas used for water treatment while turning the lake water into boiler circulation water, for steam generation.  While the coal yard train, with engine, went around in circles (delivering coal from the point where it was railed in to the point where it was fed to a crusher and then fed, on conveyor belts, to the generating plant), the rails that brought in the chlorine tanks that were left with no engines and therefore the cars had their wheels chocked.  The brakes on any train engine are always on unless they're deliberately taken off by human or by remote.

Blaming the employee for failure to engage brakes is BS.

(I used to have this tune on a rather old 78 rpm platter; don't remember the artist)

I'm adding this sidebar in order to add a link to a site where I found historic railroad jargon, so that I can find it again more easily than I could if I bookmarked it.  And in the event anyone else may be interested in such things. Catskill Archive
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