Monday, February 24, 2014

RWU Position on MN Wreck and the Call for Inward Facing Cameras

RWU Position on MN Wreck and the Call for Inward Facing Cameras

In the wake of the Metro North wreck, public officials are calling for stepped up efforts to install inward facing cameras in locomotives. The article below is an example:

This poorly conceived notion mistakenly believes that cameras that keep a sharp eye on the engine crew will be the elixir that magically takes care of all safety issues on the railroad, including the chronic problem of crew fatigue. This is ludicrous. We cannot help but wonder how public officials would react to have video cameras taping their every move on the job? Where they make the decisions, like the one that Senator Charles Schumer did, to favor more parking lots over safety at Metro-North. We can only imagine how insulted they would feel about such a proposal, yet they are quick to stick cameras in the faces of workers without a second thought.

Currently, the railroads have a policy against cell phone usage and texting while in the cab of a locomotive. The federal government has declared it illegal.  But does this totally eliminate cell phone use on trains? No! Because there will always be those that are willing to roll the dice and play the odds that they will not get caught. If your train successfully completes its tour-of-duty without incident, no one will ever know that you used your phone en route. And it is the same with cameras. If your train successfully completes its tour-of-duty without incident, no one will ever know what you did up there, including sleep, drink, smoke, or nod off. No one is watching the movie, just as no one is monitoring your phone calls. But if something goes wrong, only then is the cell phone record reviewed, the camera tape reviewed. Of course, by then it is too late and the damage has been done and the train is in the ditch, the loss of life has already occurred.

The call for inward facing cameras is an insult to every railroad worker. The insinuation is that if we were only supervised more strictly, then we would all follow the rules, refrain from making mistakes, and never let the lack of sleep, distractions, etc. interfere with our work ethic. Inward facing cameras blame workers for accidents and insinuate that we are breaking the rules and not doing our jobs. And they let the carrier off the hook. Cameras do not ask why a worker fell asleep, nodded off, or failed to run the train in accordance with all rules, speed restrictions, etc. They are reactive, not proactive, and do absolutely nothing to tackle the hazards that are lurking in the background, hazards that ultimately are responsible for workplace accidents.

Railroad Workers United believes that trains wreck because of underlying hazards that must be eliminated. We achieve this with a proactive approach that honestly investigates these hazards and examines the reality of crew fatigue, task overload, adequate training, the lack of necessary safety appliances and technologies, and all the rest. We do not keep trains from wrecking by explaining (after they wreck) that this or that employee did not do his/her job.

We will concede however, that with the best training, adequate staffing, provisions for time off work and plenty of rest, lucid and easily understood operating rules, etc. generous applications of automatic train stop, cab signals, etc., that accidents are still possible. Train crews are human beings and as such, we are prone to make mistakes, become drowsy, to be impatient, confused, irritable, distracted. There is no camera technology in the world that can change this reality. And there is no camera technology that can prevent a train from wrecking. But there is a technology that canprevent trains from wrecking and it’s called Positive Train Control (PTC). So let’s get on with its installation and stop this foolish clamoring for inward facing cameras on locomotives.

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