In a watershed moment for rail safety, the Federal Rail Administration and OSHA’s Office of Whistleblower Protection are joining forces to eliminate retaliation against employees who report injuries and safety concerns. OSHA and the FRA have signed an historic Memorandum of Agreement specifying how they will be cooperating to enforce the whistleblower protection provision of the Federal Rail Safety Act.

Since the FRSA whistleblower protections were enacted in late 2007, OSHA has received 900 complaints, two-thirds of which involve retaliation against workers who report on-the-job injuries. Such abuse has a chilling effect on the willingness of workers to report injuries and safety concerns, and violates the FRA’s injury reporting regulations. The FRA and OSHA have sent a joint letter to railroads highlighting this troubling trend, and their Memorandum of Agreement confirms it will not be tolerated. In the words of OSHA Head Dr. David Michaels, “The safety of railroad employees depends on workers’ ability to report injuries, incidents, and hazards without fear of retaliation. OSHA welcomes the opportunity to work with the FRA to protect these rights and make our nation’s railroads a safer place to work.” And FRA Head Joe Szabo stressed: “Securing a process that protects employees who report safety violations is critical to maintaining safety standards in the workplace.”

Now, FRA inspectors will be trained to recognize FRSA violations and OSHA investigators will be trained to recognize FRA violations, and both will refer such violations to the appropriate agency for enforcement. OSHA will give the FRA copies of all the FRSA complaints it receives, and both agencies will coordinate to ensure the entire spectrum of rail safety regulations are enforced. It makes perfect sense, and will go far to advance the cause of rail safety nationwide. For OSHA’s Press Release, click here. For the FRA’s Press Release, click here. Here is the full text of the Memorandum of Agreement. For more on the FRSA, go to the free Rail Whistleblower Library.