Watco Companies Contractor Orientation Safety Course

Watco exam link is at the bottom of this course.



“Right of Way”

Occupancy & Safety Rules 

Watco Companies Contractor Orientation Course
This course can be duplicated for student handouts.

Roadway Worker Protection/On-Track Safety

The FRA Roadway Worker Protection Standards became effective for Class I railroads and their contractors on March 15, 1997.  

Watco Companies published corresponding on-track safety requirements that became effective at Watco Companies -including Watco Companies Engineering contractor operations - on August 1, 1996.  

To be pro-active, Watco Companies elected to implement an on-track safety program in advance of the final publication of the FRA Roadway Worker Protection Standards. 

1.The terms On-Track Safety and Roadway Worker Protection are used interchangeably.   

2. The FRA Roadway Worker Protection Standards were developed to prevent accidents and injuries as a result of personnel being struck by trains and other on-track equipment.    

3. For the purpose of these requirements, all Engineering contractors working within the 25 foot from track centerline, are being considered as Roadway Workers. This is a conservative approach. 

4. Engineering contractors working within 25’ of track centerline will have their on-track safety strategy determined by the Watco Companies project representative, but may offer input. When a contractor is working with a Watco Companies Maintenance of Way Rules (MWOR) qualified Watco Companies employee serving as a flagger or lookout the Watco Companies flagger or lookout will have readily available all applicable rules, timetables and other required documents.

5. Some contractors may have their own FRA approved Roadway Worker Protection program. In such cases the contractor needs to verify if with the Watco Companies project representative that their program requirements do not conflict with Watco Companies requirements. A copy of this approved program would need to be readily available to contractor work groups. 

6. The responsible Watco Companies project representative may set supplemental requirements.  

7. Unless specified otherwise in contract language, affected contractors working at Watco Companies are responsible for  providing on-track safety training for their affected employees on an annual basis.   This training is provided by or through the contractor.

The FRA Roadway Worker Protection Standards were developed to prevent accidents and injuries as a result of personnel being struck by trains and other on-track equipment.  

Unless specified otherwise in contract language, affected contractors working at Watco Companies are responsible for developing and implementing an on-track safety program. Implementation would include providing on-track safety training for their affected employees on an annual basis.    

The safety action plan of affected contractors needs to document that they have an FRA approved roadway worker protection program or have elected to adopt the Watco Companies program. The safety action plan of affected contractors also needs to indicate that affected employees have received on-track safety training.

Key distances:

· Workers or equipment are foul of the track when closer then 4 feet to the nearest rail of a main track/controlled siding/other track.

· Contractors need specific authorization from their Watco Companies project representative to work within 25 feet of track centerline.  

Contractors working within 25 feet of track centerline:

·         have specific authorization from the Watco Companies project representative to be in this work zone;

·          wear ANSI Level II or III orange, and retro-reflective workwear; and,

·         work with the responsible Watco Companies project representative to develop a project specific strategy for addressing on-track safety (examples of options upcoming).


·         The use of hardhats, armbands, belts, or gloves with orange backing alone to meet the high visibility retro-reflective requirements is not acceptable. Orange vests are the preferred workwear.

  • Though the FRA Roadway Worker Protection Standards would allow the use of bright green as a high visibility workwear color, orange workwear is specified for use at Watco Companies.
  • Replace high  visibility workwear when it becomes faded or damaged.

Trains and engines are required to sound the whistle and ring the bell when approaching roadway workers - as identified by orange, retro-reflective workwear - who are on or near the track.  

On-Track Safety Strategy Options

Working Under Authority 

Where contractor personnel or equipment may foul the track, and individual train detection is not appropriate a Watco Companies flagger will be present. Track authority will be obtained through the flagger.   

Examples of other contractor operations that will require authority and a flagger: 

·horizontal boring below the track structure, as an operation failure could result in humping of the track;  

·use of cranes where boom swing or tipping of equipment would result  in fouling the track;  

·material handling operations such as some pole line removal operations, where material could fall and foul track

When a work group has a form of authority in place, train crews are aware of the work group's presence and location. The train crew needs to contact the Watco Companies employee-in-charge and receive permission to pass through the section of track covered by the authority. 

There may be other situations where a Watco Companies project representative b> may require a Watco Companies flagger include:

· large numbers of contractor personnel working within the 25 foot from track centerline zone, though not required to work foul of track 

· a large concentration of contractor rubber-tired equipment working within the 25 foot from track centerline zone, though not required to work foul of track; 

· the responsible Watco Companies project representative has minimal or no previous work experience with the contractor working within the 25 foot from track centerline zone;

· concerns with high track speeds and/or limited sight distance. 

*    Some contractors through written agreement, and after having successfully completed Watco Companies Maintenance of Way Rules training, have the ability to serve in Watco Companies MWOR qualified positions.

1.       In some cases a flagger may be required or otherwise used for a portion of a project with other options for on-track safety selected for the balance of a project.

2.       Watco Companies flaggers are responsible for the on-track safety aspects of the work, as opposed to the overall operation.

The Flagger  

·obtains track authority* or provides protection;

·establishes the warning method to notify personnel of the need to clear for trains/on-track equipment;

·notifies personnel when to occupy, clear and re-occupy the track and adjacent work area;

·identifies the place(s) of safety where personnel are to go to when clearing the track for traffic; and,

·conducts job safety briefings to cover the aforementioned information.  

Types of Authority

Some forms of authority are more commonly used than others, some are rarely used. Track Bulletin Form B is the form of authority most commonly used in conjunction with projects involving contractors.

· Restricted Limits

·Track and Time

·Train Location Lineup

·Track Warrant

·Track Bulletin Form B  

To be discussed in the job safety briefing conducted by the flagger, as applicable:

·designation of employee-in-charge

·method of on-track safety*

·limits of authority (time duration, milepost-milepost) *

·tracks that may be fouled

·control of movements on adjacent tracks  

·procedure for on-track safety on adjacent tracks

·means of providing a warning to clear the track and adjacent work area

·identification of the place(s) of safety

·designated work zones around machines

·distances to be maintained between machines when working and traveling  

* Record this information and carry on-person. Be able to identify the employee-in-charge (EIC).

Work equipment spacing

  • a sufficient distance when traveling determined by the EIC  

  • 50 feet when working *

  • 50 feet when bunched at crossings *

* This distance may be reduced when having a good reason, and as covered in your job safety briefing. This exemption is not to be used on a routine basis. 

The work zone extends 15 feet longitudinally to the front and rear of on-track work equipment. The safe working zone to the sides of on-track work equipment varies based on movements of machine parts. A job safety briefing needs to be conducted with the machine operator prior to entering this work zone.

Remember, that in addition to on-track safety issues, job safety briefings need to cover other aspects of the work being performed and emergency preparedness issues.

Follow-up job safety briefings need to be conducted when conditions or procedures change, or the method of on-track safety is changed, extended, or to be released.  

Individual Train Detection

Individual train detection may be used when:

  • performing routine inspections or minor work when: the work does not affect the movement of trains - create the potential for derail; and

  • trains can be visually detected moving at maximum timetable speed; and

  • the ability to see is not impaired; and 

  • the ability to hear is not impaired *

  • When using individual train detection, power tools may be used on other than main track.

Train crews are not aware of work group locations when individual train detection is used.


During the job safety briefing the Watco Companies Maintenance of Way Rules - Qualified lookout, who is qualified in judging distances and has current status in on-track safety training and is equipped with a radio:

  •  Identifies the place of safety

  •  communicates to workers the method of warning

  • devotes full attention to the detection of trains; and,

  •  completes the Statement of On-Track Safety, which is maintained by the lookout on-person.

The warning method used by a lookout needs to be:

  • distinctive, clear;

  • non-visual  (A light or flag that is being waved; for example, would not be seen by personnel who may be

  • turned and working or walking in the opposite direction.);

  • distinguishable above background noise; and,

  •  identified in the job safety briefing

Unless specified in contract language, contractor employees will not serve as lookouts.   

Lone Worker

Watco Companies Maintenance of Way Rules - Qualified employee who is qualified in judging distances and has current status in on-track safety training and equipped with a radio:

  •  Identifies the place of safety

  • completes the Statement of On-Track Safety, which is maintained by the lookout on-person.

Unless specified in contract language, contractor employees will not serve as lone workers.  

Statement of On-Track Safety:

  • completed by the lookout or lone worker prior to the work group fouling the track;

  •  the lookout or lone worker obtains the appropriate timetable and General Order information

  • to complete the Statement of On-Track Safety;

  • a copy of the completed Statement of On-Track Safety is maintained with the lookout or lone worker


      1. The timetables list the maximum allowable track speed. General Orders    provide up-to-date information of conditions that affect train movement.  

  • Workers need to be in their place of safety prior to a train reaching the distance corresponding to the track speed as specified on the form Statement of On-Track Safety.  

Track Protection

Switches are:

-          lined against movement, properly tagged, spiked, clamped, or locked;

-          have a red flag/ light with a derail in place.

This is performed by a Watco Companies Maintenance of Way Rules - Qualified employee, unless specified otherwise in contract language.

Options When Not Working Foul of Track

Where contractor employees are working in the 25 foot from centerline zone, yet will not be fouling the track, Watco Companies project representatives have some additional options including:

·  Install a construction fence, or the equivalent, to serve as a reminder to contractor personnel not to foul the track. The fence needs to be installed far enough from track that is will not be struck by trains or on-track equipment.

·Designate a contractor employee to serve as a lookout to keep his co-workers in the immediate work area and not allow them to approach foul of track. This is not a lookout as defined in the FRA Roadway Worker Protection Standards.

·Obtain a commitment from the contractor that the work group will specify in their job safety briefing the need to stay in the immediate work area and not approach foul of track.

The FRA's "foul of track" zone has no vertical limit. When involved in the construction of an overpass, for example, and when working above the immediate track area, the same requirements apply as if working "foul of track" at ground/track level. Common sense dictates, however, that when an overpass is complete except for minor tasks, and there is no potential for material, equipment or personnel fouling the track, it is not necessary for workers, upon notification of the approach of a train, to leave the overpass area above the "foul of track" zone and move to a place of safety. The Watco Companies Project Representative or flagger needs to concur with such a plan, and expectations need to be clearly communicated during the job safety briefings.

 Other Information

While contractors may offer suggestions regarding on-track safety strategies, the Watco Companies project representative has the absolute final decision. Different Watco Companies project representatives will not necessarily select the same on-track safety strategy option in like situations.  

The Watco Companies project representative is to coordinate with  the management of Intermodal, Hub Center and Mechanical personnel, and contractor representatives to verify that all are aware and in agreement with the on-track safety strategy when Engineering contractors are performing work at these facilities. The Watco Companies project representative is to advise Intermodal, Hub Center and Mechanical management to communicate this information to affected personnel.

As information, when workers are crossing the track perpendicularly  to go from a job-site to a Watco Companies building or to their vehicle, the FRA Roadway Worker Protection Standards do not apply. It is critical, however, that workers look both ways and verify that the track is clear in both directions. Expect movement on any track, at any time, and in either direction!  

Workers crossing the track are not to be carrying heavy and/or awkwardly shaped work materials, equipment, or objects which, hinder their smooth movement across the track, or  where - should they drop the item,  - it would  foul the track and create a hazard for trains and on-track equipment.  

The FRA Roadway Worker Protection Standards require that operators of on-track equipment be: 

·Trained and certified as competent to operate on-track equipment.

·Operators are to be familiar with the information in a machine's operating manual; manuals are carried on items of work equipment. This would include crane load charts.


Contractors need to have a program in-place to establish competency in work equipment operators. 

This training, as applicable is listed in a contractor's safety action plan.

These same requirements need to be applied to rubber-tired work equipment.  


In 1993 a group of religious fundamentalist’s attempts to topple the World Trade Center, by detonating a rented truck filled with ammonium nitrite, urea and nitric acid. 

In 1995 Timothy McVeigh blows up the federal building in Oklahoma City as a result of his growing anger with the federal government. 

In 1999 two members of an anti-government militia are arrested for plotting to detonate 24 million gallons of liquid propane at a storage facility in Elk Grove, California.

One September 11, 2001 a small group of well organized terrorists hijack four commercial aircraft crashing two into the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon, while the passengers of the fourth cause its crash in a Pennsylvania field preventing its apparent attack on another target.  Thousands of innocent people are killed. 

These are a few examples of terrorist attacks that have drawn attention to the importance of security of hazardous materials in America’s transportation system. 

While none of these incidents involved the transportation of hazardous materials, they illustrate how hazardous materials have the potential to be transformed into terrorist weapons. 

Hazardous materials are essential to the economy of the United States and the well being of its people.  They fuel our cars and trucks and locomotives, heat and cool our homes and offices, and purify the water we drink.  Hazardous materials are used in farming, medical applications, in manufacturing, mining and other industrial processes.  Over 800,000 shipments of Hazardous Materials are made daily. 

Hazardous materials move safely by plane, train, truck, vessel, or pipeline in quantities ranging from ounces to thousands of gallons.  In the wrong hands however, hazardous materials can pose a significant threat.  Addressing this threat is vital to protecting our citizens and our economy. 

The Department of Homeland Security and law enforcement agencies alone cannot guarantee the security of the transportation system.  They need the help of carriers, shippers and producers. 

I have the privilege and honor to be President of the Association of American Railroads.  In this time of heightened security alert, our nation is depending on a safe, secure and reliable transportation system; and, as you know, freight railroads are the backbone of that transportation system.  The secure operation of railroads is critical to our economy, our national defense, and our way of life. 

In the rail industry, safety and security have always been our highest priorities.  Thanks to the efforts of our companies and your personal dedication to safety, we are prepared. 

However, we must continue to focus and heighten our awareness.  We can become even better at what we do.  The Association of American Railroads and your individual companies have developed plans in a continuing effort to enhance the security of the rail system, especially in the area of hazardous materials.

As you watch this presentation, I invite you to join your fellow employees in taking your skills and safety principles to a new level.  This will help us “all do our share: in the years to come. 

We can all be proud to be part of the railroad family.  Thank you for everything you do to provide safe, secure, and efficient transportation.   Mr. Ed Hamburger, President & CEO of AAR

What you need to do while on Railroad Property.

A heightened awareness. 

An alertness to your work environment. 

A commitment to safe and proper procedures and rules. 

The willingness to follow up on out of the ordinary circumstances and situations. 

And the knowledge of how to communicate and make proper notification of exceptional or unusual circumstances. 

Each is a part of what we can do and they are all a part of being a railroader. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation now requires each employee involved in the transportation of hazardous materials to receive training in transportation security awareness.   

Whether you work in the railyards, out along the railroad track, or in a shop or an office, security awareness means contributing to a safe work environment by being aware of your surroundings at all times, complying with rules, instructions and conducting thorough job briefings. 

In other words staying alert for events or circumstances that are out of the ordinary and knowing what to do, while at all times maintaining your safety and the safety of others. 

For example trespassers:  We’ve all seen them on the railroad.  However, in these times it is especially important that we don’t unauthorized persons on our property.  If appropriate politely question the person and inform him or her of the laws regarding trespassing and the potential dangers on railway property for yourself that they leave the property. 

Sometimes there is the more questionable type trespasser, such as the person who just looks out of place.  We know how railroaders dress and usually we are fairly familiar with vendors and delivery people in our areas.  In this case notify the appropriate authorities, supervisors, railway or local police, according to your railroad’s procedures.  Graphic – Police Emergency Response Number. 

In any case, do not take risks.  But, on the other hand do not ignore the unauthorized person on railroad property or on our trains.  Another type person to be aware of is the person who seems curious about the railroad or its operations.  Especially people who ask about times and routes of trains, movements involving hazmat, military supplies and people who wish to know locations of offices such as dispatching centers.   

Also notice people who appear to be lost or confused.  They may actually be lost, or they may be trying to find their way around your office building or work area. 

If you have a new employee working with you, take the time to brief him or her on what is “normal” or accepted in your work area, what they may expect and whom they may expect to see. 

Try to heighten their awareness and give them examples of people or activities that they should be alert for.  Prepare them!  Teach them to recognize the “norm: and maybe they will then recognize the out-of-the ordinary. 

We should also heighten our awareness for unusual circumstances.  Things we might have taken for granted in the past should “get your attention”..  For example, a vehicle parked on the right of way or near your shop, or an unfamiliar truck or van making a delivery.  Now, that’s not to say that every unfamiliar vehicle is “suspicious”.  However, it is important that we pay attention to our environment and circumstances that are our of the ordinary. 

The security of railroad property is also a high priority.  Particular attention should be paid to: bridges; tunnels; fuel storage facilities; yards with high volumes of haz-mat shipments; dispatching centers; communication & signal systems and computer centers. 

Rules compliance, equipment and job knowledge and knowledge of your territory or work area play key roles in transportation security. 

For example, while out on the railroad, make doubly sure that locomotives and trains are secured.  When possible lock the locomotive.  Secure remote control belt packs, when equipment is left unattended at outlying points or at remote points within yards or terminals.  Follow the rules.  As always the rules are your best friends when it comes to preventing incidents and injuries. 

Double check switches.  Determine if they are lined and locked properly.  Pay close attention to derails.  Lock all company vehicles when not in use.  Check buildings and shanties for security, lock-‘em up! 

Pay special attention to areas or buildings that may be used to store hazardous materials.  If an area, building, or office is restricted or secured, that’s just what it should be, restricted to entry.  Do not allow unauthorized persons to enter and if unauthorized persons do seek entry, refer them to the proper authority. 

If you work with a computer take all security precautions.  Lock it down when it is unattended.  Never share your user ID and password, and don’t allow others to use your computer while logged on.  There is a lot of information that can be gained through our company computer network, such as train documents and car movement records. 

Protect your company equipment.  Lock up all materials. 

Car inspections are a vital part of our rail security.  Increase your scrutiny of railcars especially hazardous materials and military shipments.  Look for unusual items mounted on or under cars.  Report unusual conditions to the appropriate authority.  Look for signs of tampering. 

Each of us is familiar with the routines and people we see every day in our office, yard or shop.  If you see an unfamiliar face or questionable situation, ask questions if it seems safe to do so.  Check credentials from those who say they work for a government agency.  Peacefully confront strangers or visitors on property.  Determine if they have a business need to be there, such as a contractor.  If there is any question in these cases notify your supervisor or appropriate authority. 

Watch and listen.  Be aware of personal conversations with others on or off the property about your job and yard.  Unusual interest in technical details should heighten your suspicion and should be reported.  Do not speak openly, about detailed information on trains, direction of movement, schedules and consists, especially hazardous materials, business car and military movements.  This includes posting information to internet sites. 

As always, in any effort teamwork and communication is imperative.  Be familiar with and follow instructions on the emergency response procedures. 

Keep one another focused; discuss alertness and security at job briefings and safety meeting; remind one another of things to look out for; share information; discuss precautions and proper responses to situations; follow the plan; and make a contribution.  Each of us has a responsibility.  It’s bigger than just our work group or railroad.

Now, we know we have covered a lot of ground in a short time and of course we can’t include every situation or response in a program of this length.  That’s where you come in.  Remember, if you do notice people or events out-of-the ordinary, don’t over-react.  Don’t under-react either.  Take appropriate action, and that means being prepared.  Know the appropriate action or notification.  Take the time to prepare yourself with knowledge.  And most of all DO NOT  take risks, with your safety or the safety of others.

As we said earlier all citizens, all railroaders have a responsibility to the safety and security of our families, homes, communities and our nation.  There are not better reasons to heighten our alertness and awareness.  It is up to all of us “to do our share”.  We are the eyes and ears of safety and security for the railroad.  We are each on the front line of defense.  We are all in it together.

  • WHEREAS, you and/or your company

    are obtaining this orientation and any of the materials provided for certain of its employees who work on or about railroad equipment, and WHEREAS, THE WATCO COMPANIES (WATCO) is willing to provide this orientation and any of the materials provided, but only upon the following terms and conditions, NOW THEREFORE, it is agreed as follows: In consideration of this orientation and any of the materials provided to the employee and management of your company or you as an individual for their internal use by you, hereby assume all risk of and agrees to indemnify and hold WATCOand the administrator of this site harmless from any personal injury to or death of its officers, agents and employees, and loss of or damage to property in its or their custody or possession, which shall in any manner arise from or be alleged to be due to in, in whole or in part, this orientation or materials provided to its employees by WATCO,  EXCEPT TO THE EXTENT SUCH INJURIES OR DAMAGES BE CAUSED BY OR CONTRIBUTED TO BY THE INTENTIONAL MISCONDUCT OR GROSS NEGLIGENCE OF  WATCO RAIL, ITS OFFICERS, EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, OR ANY THIRD PARTY.  WATCO is hereby released and forever discharged, as well as its subsidiary and affiliated companies, and the officers, agents, and employees of said companies, from all claims, liabilities, and costs of every kind by reason of any such injury to or death of persons and loss of or damage to property. This Release shall be binding upon the submission of this document.

    I understand that by submitting my name and, as applicable, the names of the other individuals who have completed this orientation section, I am indicating that (I), these personnel have actually completed this section of the orientation and understand this document. I am an employee and/or officer of the corporation named above, who is duly authorized and fully empowered by said corporation to execute the same on its behalf or myself as an individual.  

    Note: If you receive an error message when you submit your answers, you can email your answers to the Webmaster for processing.

    Contractors must understand that they are ultimately responsible for their employee’s training, equipment, and actions while on WATCO Rail tracks.

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