a train moving on railroad tracks through snowy winter mountains

Brace yourselves! Winter has come. Many railroad injuries and deaths happen due to ice and snow, which can make it hard to stop a car or train in time. It is essential that railroads be maintained, but it is also essential that a railroad crew follow winter safety guidelines.

What should employees wear and do so they stay warm while working in winter conditions? How can slips and falls be avoided? What should railroad workers do to repair tracks?

Answer these questions and you can have a safe and productive winter. Here is your quick guide.

Wear Safety Equipment

Anyone working on railroads should have railroad safety equipment on. They should wear a helmet that covers the top and sides of their head. They should wear gloves so they grab objects on the ground without cutting themselves.

Boots are as essential as gloves. They can have rubber soles, but they should grip the ground and allow someone to walk without sliding or tripping.

If employees are working near moving pieces of equipment, they should have reflective vests on. The vests should have bright colors and shiny surfaces. A vest should fit over a worker’s torso, including their coat.

Stay Warm

Working in winter can lead to frostbite and hypothermia. It is essential that a supervisor gives a railroad crew multiple ways to keep warm.

Hot beverages are especially good for small groups. Someone should make some coffee and tea and store the drinks in a thermos. A supervisor should allow their employees to take a break and get a drink when they are feeling cold or thirsty.

Someone should place space heaters in offices or near work areas. A company should find heaters that operate on batteries. If a heater must remain plugged in, an appliance should remain near the outlet so a railroad worker will not trip over the cord.

A supervisor should supply some blankets that railroad workers can wrap around themselves. Space blankets are lightweight and easy to use.

Employees should try to avoid lighting fires, even if they have fireproof barrels. The barrel may fall over and the fire may spread, or a worker may burn themselves.

The signs and symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, difficulty concentrating, and numbness in the extremities. Anyone who shows signs of hypothermia should go inside and get help.

No one should send a railroad crew out to work in subzero temperatures. Hypothermia can set in quickly, and workers can become disorientated.

Prevent Slips and Falls

Wearing boots instead of shoes can prevent many falls. But workers have to go the extra mile due to the amount of ice on the ground.

Railroad workers should walk slowly across surfaces. They should keep their eyes toward the ground, looking for patches of ice and bumps in the walkway. If they are carrying objects, they should keep them at their sides so they can look ahead without obstruction.

Workers should walk with small and short steps. They can also shuffle, especially if a walkway has ice on it.

Whenever possible, employees should have railings they can grip while walking. If they are going up and down stairs, a company should check that the railings are sturdy.

Remove Snow and Ice

Employees can remove snow off of walkways with shovels and plows. Someone should remove the snow before the majority of employees arrive on site. Removing snow while employees are working can be difficult, especially when workers need to walk back and forth.

Whenever ice is on the ground, someone can use salt or powder to dissolve the snow. After they sprinkle the salt on, they should keep employees from walking on the walkway. The salt needs time to settle into the ice and melt it.

If someone needs to remove snow off a railroad track, they can use a wedge plow. They can push or propel the plow down the track, and it will move the snow off to the sides. They can use a snow blower, but they should make sure they blow snow away from other employees.

A crew should follow good railroad winterization tips whenever they are working near snow and ice. Employees should move snow so it is at least 12 feet away from tracks. A company should have a plan to maintain winter vehicles, including snowplows.

Inspect the Track

Ice can shift and cause damage to a railroad track. Snow can also melt and rust metallic surfaces.

Before a crew begins extensive work on a track, one person should walk its length and inspect it for damage. They must walk while looking low to the ground so they get a good look at everything.

In particular, a crew should make sure that railroad ties and signal lights are visible. If they are not, clearing and repairing them should be priorities.

A crew should also check that ice and debris can drain off the tracks. Employees should clear out storm drains and find places where they can throw out debris.

Promote Winter Safety

Winter safety is not difficult. All employees should wear helmets, gloves, and warm clothes. No one should go out when it is too cold outside.

Employees should wear boots to prevent falls. They should walk with careful steps, looking out for ice and snow. Workers should remove snow from railways and sprinkle salt on walkways to melt ice.

Tracks should receive daily inspections for all signs of damage. Navigation tools like signals should be clearly visible.