FTA issues NPRM to protect transit rail worker safety

March 25, 2024
The rule would require U.S. transit agencies to create a rail transit protection program, implement comprehensive training for workers and ensure that unsafe acts and conditions are reported.

Under a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) published on March 22, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is proposing mandatory minimum standards to protect those who perform track work for all rail transit agencies nationwide. The mandatory minimum standards would require transit agencies nationwide to create a protection program geared at personnel who work on or around the tracks, implement comprehensive training for workers and ensure that unsafe acts and conditions are reported. The proposed rule would apply to rail agencies and state safety oversight agencies (SSOAs) that are tasked with overseeing safety.  

"The workers who repair and maintain America’s transit railways deserve to be safe on the job," said U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "We are proud to propose the first-ever rule requiring worker protection standards for all rail transit agencies and I look forward to partnering with transit agencies across the country to advance this vital rule and keep workers safe."  

According to data reported in the National Transit Database, between Jan. 1, 2008, and Oct. 31, 2022, 22 workers were killed and 120 workers were seriously injured in rail transit roadway safety events.  

"This rule will ultimately save lives," said FTA Acting Administrator Veronica Vanterpool. "Once this rule is finalized, it will support safer conditions for workers who perform critical tasks that keep transit operating efficiently and safely." 

The proposed rule would create the following requirements for rail transit agencies:  

  • Adopt and implement a Roadway Worker Protection (RWP) Program to improve worker safety consistent with federal and state safety requirements. FTA notes "roadway" is a term describing the area on and along the tracks. 
  • Establish minimum RWP program elements, including job safety briefings, lone worker protection and good faith safety challenges.  
  • Document RWP programs in a manual that includes a track access guide. 
  • Implement an RWP training program that addresses all transit workers responsible for on-track safety by position.

The proposed rule would also require SSOAs to review and approve worker protection program elements, monitor implementation and conduct annual audits to ensure compliance.

FTA is also seeking feedback on the level of participation that safety committees, which are established by the rail transit agencies, may have in the proposed rule, including their involvement in approving, monitoring or overseeing the implementation of a rail transit worker protection program. 

FTA encourages members of the public, transit agencies, SSOAs, unions and other interested parties to submit comments on the proposed NPRM to the Federal Register comment docket, which will be open for 60 days until May 24, 2024.