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July 17, 2018
 JED DODD
General Chairman and
Vice President
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An Injury To One Is An Injury To All
Updated On: May 14, 2018

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL
AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

Coalition Letter to Amtrak's President and Board of Directors

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

Pennsylvania Federation BMWED-IBT

Northeast System Federation BMWED-IBT

Amtrak Eastern General Committee - BRS 

American Railway and Airway Supervisors Association - IAM


421 North Seventh Street 

Suite 299 

Philadelphia, PA 19123 

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

Overnight UPS Mail                                                         May 14, 2018

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

National Railroad Passenger Corporation 

Richard Anderson, President
1 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D. C. 20001 

Re: Luke Gsell - Another MW Worker Fatality on the Northeast Corridor

NO JUSTICE, NO PEACE

Dear Mr. Anderson: 

On April 24, 2018, Luke Gsell, a twenty year old trackman with eight months service on the railroad, was struck and killed at 9 AM by Amtrak Train #86. He was performing watchman duties for workers and equipment involved in an Undercutting operation at Bowie State Station in Bowie, MD. This accident was wholly avoidable. Unfortunately, given the history of safety on the Amtrak property, it was also predictable. The conditions that led to the snuffing out of this young life still exist and will undoubtedly kill again if we do not make radical change. The purpose of this letter is to provide you with our initial findings regarding the fatality of Luke Gsell, make recommendations to begin the process of the need for reform and to engage you in a serious dialogue about implementing these recommendations. Luke Gsell joins a roster of four other MW workers who have been struck and killed by moving trains in the last four years. Three of the five were young, short service employees who had been trained and qualified by Amtrak on the Roadway Worker Protection Rules. 

Initial Investigation 

The FRA and NTSB are conducting formal investigations regarding Luke Gsell’s death and hopefully they will eventually issue recommendations we can use to prevent future roadway worker fatalities. At this point, our initial investigation of Luke Gsell’s death indicates he was working as a gang watchman in three track territory at Bowie State Station. Track No. 2 was out of service. He was standing at the edge of the ties in the foul of the field side of Track No. 1. A welding unit was on No. 2 track performing destressing procedures following the Undercutter, which had worked there previously. Watchman Gsell was adjacent to the welding gang on No. 2 track and he was providing watchman protection for the welders. He was up on the edge of the ties because the footing was bad for him to stand in the clear of the track. A commuter train came on No. 3 track and Luke Gsell blew the horn and held up his disk. He was looking North towards the commuter train when Amtrak train 86 came up behind him and killed him. Luke Gsell was trained and qualified by the Amtrak Training Department on the Roadway Worker Protection procedures. 

There were not enough watchmen posted at the time of the accident. There were no advance watchmen posted to Luke Gsell’s north. However, the train came from the south and the lack of a sufficient number of watchmen to the south is the issue. At the time of the impact there were 3 watchmen (including Luke Gsell) posted. All 3 were posted on the east side of No. 1 track. The first was an advance gang watchman who was posted on the northbound platform at Bowie State passenger station at the northern most end. He would have had the first view of northbound Amtrak Train 86. The second advance watchman was posted 3 catenary poles north of the first watchman. Cat poles in this territory are typically centered at 275 feet which makes the second advance watchman about 825 feet north of the first watchman. See the map of the accident site in Attachment A. This distance is excessive and does not permit sufficient warning of approaching trains. 

The authorized speed on this section of track is 105 mph. Given the speed of the track and manner in which the watchmen were placed there wasn’t enough time to provide the ability to get into a predetermined place of safety 15 seconds before the train passes Luke Gsell’s location. The second watchmen reports that he blew his horn repeatedly to warn Luke Gsell and was too far away for Luke Gsell to hear him. The On-Track Safety briefing form identifies the location where they were working as a “hot spot.” The hot spot book was developed by labor and management in 2009 after an extensive joint review of the hot spot areas on the NEC. This report indicates that 1⁄2 mile to the south at MP 119.7, on curve 404, that 2 or 3 advance watchmen are needed and .08 miles north of the point of impact, at MP 118.4, that 3 advance gang watchmen are needed. Including Luke Gsell, this location requires 7 watchmen, not 3, in order to ensure that workers in the foul can be in a place of safety 15 seconds before the train passes their work location. 

Please see the Amtrak track chart in Attachment A which illustrates what we are describing. You can see that the point of impact is between two curves and at the lower end of elevation. In other words, Amtrak Train 86 pops up over the hill and from around a curve at MP 120 and is suddenly in view of the first watchman and even if he reacts immediately to the train traveling at 105 mph there is not going to be enough time for the second watchman to notify Luke Gsell. Moreover, the spacing prevents Luke Gsell from hearing the second watchman’s horn with the machines operating on track 2. 

When the NTSB was on site doing its investigation they used 7 watchmen and a tap man. It should also be noted that equipment was not running and foul time was being used. 

John Fabe Fatality of November 4, 1997 

Luke Gsell’s death is a repeat of the circumstances that led to the death of John Fabe on November 4, 1997. John Fabe was working as an advance gang watchman. He was also in the foul of the track when he was struck and killed by a SEPTA commuter train. The safety and RWP rules at the time permitted Brother Fabe to stand in the foul of the track when in his judgement it was not practicable to stand outside the foul of the track. Following his death, labor and management met and agreed to change the rules so that no employee providing watchman protection would be permitted to stand in the foul of the track. A year after this agreement was made management unilaterally reversed it to again permit a watchman to stand in the foul of a track. We protested this unilateral change bitterly, but Amtrak ignored our letter. See Attachment B with our October 8, 1998, letter to C. J. Bianco, Assistant Vice President Safety. In the letter, we stated that it was plain to us that another fatality would occur while a watchman stood in the foul of the track performing his/her duties and unfortunately our prediction has come true. 

The argument could be made that the circumstances that would permit Luke Gsell to stand in the foul of the track were not present on the day he was struck. While this may or may not be true, what is true is that the minute there is equivocation in a safety rule or RWP regulation there is danger it will be misunderstood. Amtrak training can not teach that a watchman should never stand in the foul of a track because the unilaterally imposed rule equivocates all over the place and becomes subject to misapplication. 

The Unions maintain that if the conditions do not permit a watchman to stand outside the foul of a on-coming train then watchman protection should not be used and a higher form of protection should be used to perform the work safely. 

Recommendation Number 1: Watchmen Should be Prohibited from Ever Fouling a Live Track in the Performance of their 

duties. 

A. Immediately issue instructions that under no circumstances should a watchman be in the foul of live tracks while performing their duties.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

B. That the RWP training be adjusted to be clear and concise on this issue.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

C. That RWP and NORAC training be adjusted so that if the employee in charge determines that the watchmen can not perform their duties outside of the foul of live tracks that they have been trained on obtaining another form of protection.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

Non Punitive Close Call Reporting Process Needs Reinstating 

Amtrak had a working close call reporting policy that was non-punitive for the fourteen year period from 1999 to 2014. Attachment C contains that now terminated policy. Management and Labor would jointly investigate close call reports and work together to ensure that they were not repeated. During this period many close calls were reported and many problems were addressed. During the fourteen year period one employee was struck and killed by a moving train. In 2014, management unilaterally cancelled the close call policy and shortly after began to institute a cardinal rule policy where violations of RWP or NORAC rules were greeted with dismissal. Since the termination of the close call policy we have had five fatalities, no close calls reported and no joint investigations to fix problems. The fact of the matter is, that if employees think they are going to be dismissed or disciplined for reporting problems, they are not going to report them. Additionally, if they are questioned about a situation that will lead to their dismissal if they tell the truth, they are not going to tell the truth. This crisis needs to be immediately addressed so that we can work on fixing close calls before they become fatalities. 

This crisis has repeatedly been brought to the attention of Amtrak management and either dealt with in bad faith or ignored. Attachment D contains a September 19, 2016, letter to Amtrak President Charles Moorman asking him to reinstate the close call policy and containing a petition signed by 1500 engineering workers supporting this idea. Amtrak President Charles Moorman ignored this letter. 

Recommendation Number 2: Reinstate the Close Call Policy 

Reinstate the Close Call policy that was terminated in 2014. 

Recommendation Number 3: Terminate the Cardinal Rule program. 

Terminate the Cardinal Rule discipline program. 

Hot Spot Watchman Program 

On March 13, 2008, a terrible accident occurred in Providence, RI when a train struck and killed a former Amtrak manager and badly mutilated a BMWED track foreman. Labor and Management jointly determined that not enough watchmen were present to properly protect these men. It was also determined that these staffing requirements were the basis of bitter arguments at job briefings and on the job and that we could go a long way to resolving these conflicts if we jointly determined how many watchmen would be needed at the various locations on the railroad and publish these findings. We formed a hot spot committee and teams of labor and management went to every curve and hot spot on the railroad and performed whistle tests and used stop watches to establish what was needed. Attachment E contains a letter dated August 6, 2009, to the Amtrak BMWED membership that provides some explanation of this process. 

The hot spot manual worked well for a number of years as everyone understood it was a product of labor and management cooperation and its purpose was to protect lives. Initially, it was published in a 8.5 by 11 report which did not lend itself to field use. It was later published in a format that could fit into the RWP manual. In the last five years management has been very reluctant to publish it at all. The legal department has insisted that big disclaimers be put on the cover of the book and this causes new Amtrak managers, usually with no experience working on the railroad and with no history of how it was developed focus upon the disclaimer rather than the important information it contains. The training department refuses to teach about it in RWP classes. We have had Chief Engineers who have stated that the hot spot book is no longer relevant because it was published in 2009 and the infrastructure in 2014 is not the same. The Northeast Corridor has had the same basic infrastructure for 150 years. 

Recommendation Number 4: Endorse and Promote the Hot Spot Book 

A. Reprint the hot spot manual and ensure every single Amtrak MW worker has a copy of it.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

B. Print the hot spot manual in a form that can be put into the RWP manual.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

C. Take the disclaimer off of the hot spot manual and indicate that the recommendations are minimal recommendations and that more watchmen could be needed and if that is not practical then a higher form of protection should be used or the work postponed until it can be done safely. 

D. Put the Amtrak, BRS, BMWED and ARASA logos on the manual so that it is clear it is a joint endeavor supported by both labor and management.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

E. Make it a requirement to be taught in the RWP training classes.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

F. On the track charts, upon which the MW Foremen rely, put in a notation where the hot spots are and how many watchmen are required to protect that area.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

G. Make the hot spot points a part of the physical characteristic test required to obtain formean qualifications.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

RWP Training 

RWP training used to be conducted by long term craft employees and it was discussed by knowledgeable individuals with real world experience. These employees taught the classes to save lives. The classes are now taught to comply with a regulation and employees are being trained and qualified on the RWP regulations by Amtrak and then going out on the railroad and being struck and killed by trains. Attachment F contains the current list of RWP trainers. Only one or two have any real track experience and one has not been near the railroad in twenty years. 

Recommendation Number 5: Revamp RWP Training 

A. Negotiate a joint agreement with ARASA, BRS and BMWED to provide for the selection of all RWP trainers from the ranks and they must have 5 or more years of service on the railroad. Agreement will provide for the selection process, qualifications, hours, rest days, wages etc.

B. Establish a blue ribbon joint labor/management committee to review how and what is being taught in RWP school, make recommendations to enhance and change it and then promptly meet for the purpose of implementing the changes.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

C. While the blue ribbon committee is doing its review make the hot spot book a mandatory source of training at RWP school.

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

D. While the blue ribbon committee is doing its review ensure that the new rule that no watchman may ever be in the foul of a live track is thoroughly understood by all of the attendees.

E. Hold separate and immediate meetings of all Foremen where the leadership of the Unions and the leadership of Amtrak explain the hot spot book and the new rule that no watchman may be in the foul of a live track in the performance of their duties. 

AN INJURY TO ONE IS AN INJURY TO ALL

It is our desire to meet as soon as possible and discuss our recommendations to work towards a railroad operation where fatalities are rare and not the norm

Please contact us to arrange for a time and place in which these discussions may begin and continue with the urgency that this crisis requires so that we may implement much needed reform as quickly as possible. 

Yours truly,

Jed Dodd

General Chairman

Pennsylvania Federation BMWED-IBT

Dave Ingersoll

General Chairman

Amtrak Eastern General Committee - BRS

Sonny Sheltman

General Chairman

American Railway and Airway Supervisors

Dale Bogart

General Chairman

Northern System FederAtion BMWED-IBT

cc: Amtrak Board of Directors

View letter with attachments here…


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