Cindy Chew/2005 S.F. Examiner file photoThe California Public Utilities Commission announced new safety rules for trackside transit workers today in the wake of the deaths of two BART workers Oct. 19.

CPUC orders new safety rules for rail transit trackside workers

In the wake of the deaths of two BART workers who were struck by train on Oct. 19, the California Public Utilities Commission in San Francisco today adopted a series of new safety regulations to protect trackside workers.

Among other rules, transit agencies in California must immediately create a procedure for three-way communication among train operators, central controllers and workers doing maintenance on the tracks.

The movement of trains into work zones must be controlled with flags or signals limiting speed, or locking switches that physically prevent train cars from moving on tracks where work is being done.

Some of the rules were previously proposed as part of rule-making process initiated by the commission in 2009.

Other requirements, such as the three-way communication mandate, were developed as immediate interim provisions because of a “public necessity” following the most recent BART accident, the commission said in the order adopted today.

BART engineer Christopher Sheppard, 58, and contractor Laurence Daniels, 66, were checking on a report of a dip in a stretch of trackway between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill BART stations when they were hit by a train earlier this month.

At the time, they were working under a now-abandoned BART safety procedure known as “simple approval,” in which workers were responsible for their own safety, were not guaranteed warnings of approaching trains, and were required to be able to spot approaching trains and clear the track within 15 seconds.

Last week, BART announced a permanent moratorium on the simple approval procedure and said that trains in the vicinity of workers will be slowed, stopped or diverted.

But BART has not yet announced details of the new procedure.

In the meantime, the interim rules adopted by the commission, including the three-way communication requirement, will go into effect immediately.

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