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Railroad Safety Specialists
Significant Points
  • Opportunities are expected to be good for qualified applicants since a large number of workers are expected to retire or leave these occupations from 2008 to 2018.
  • 76 percent of these workers are members of unions, and earnings are relatively high.
Nature of the Work

Most positions in this series can be divided into three general categories: (1) those concerned primarily with on-site inspection of railroad equipment, facilities, and operating practices for compliance with Federal safety standards and regulations; (2) those primarily involved in staff work related to policy and procedural development or program administration; and (3) those involved in investigating major railroad accidents to determine the probable cause and to make recommendations to prevent future occurrences.

Inspector positions

Regardless of the type(s) of railroad safety inspection work the employee performs, the duties of the position follow the same general pattern. At the full performance level, the inspector is usually assigned to territory covering from one to several States (depending upon the density of rail traffic in the area) and including several railroads of various sizes. Based on knowledge of railroad operations in the territory, the inspector plans an itinerary of regular inspections that will concentrate on those facilities with a history of problems.

When conducting routine inspections, the inspector:

  • reviews repair or other records for conformance with safety regulations and reporting requirements;
  • inspects and tests (or observes railroad employees test) selected pieces of equipment;
  • observes work methods to see that employees are working in a safe manner and are performing required tests and inspection properly; and
  • holds a closing meeting with railroad managers to discuss safety problems and to present a written notice of defects that must be repaired.
  • Besides conducting regular inspections, the inspector also:

  • investigates complaints of unsafe conditions on railroad property;
  • investigates accidents to determine if Federal laws and regulations were violated;
  • promotes safety among railroad employees by participating in training programs and giving safety talks;
  • evaluates requests from railroad officials to vary from Federal safety standards; and
  • advises railroad managers, shippers, and manufacturers of railroad equipment on safety matters.
  • The goal of the railroad safety inspection program is to maintain voluntary compliance with Federal laws and regulations. However, when a railroad fails to correct reported defects or when the problems uncovered in a complaint investigation are severe, the inspector may submit a violation report to agency headquarters for prosecution. In those cases, the inspector may serve as a technical adviser to government attorneys during the negotiation of fines.

    Though safety inspectors must have a general knowledge of all aspects of railroad operations, they usually specialize in one or more of the following areas of inspection work:

    (1) Track -- There are several classes of track, each having a maximum allowable speed. Federal regulations set minimum standards for track geometry and track structure for each class. Track geometry includes the distance between rails (gage and alignment), cross-level, and the elevation of outer rails on curved track.

    Deviations in track geometry are usually caused by problems in the underlying track structure which can include:

  • the amount and distribution of ballast (material supporting the track);
  • the condition and number of crossties; and
  • the physical condition of rails and track assembly fittings (rail joints, spikes, tie plates).
  • Track standards also cover the maintenance of the track-related components of switches and the upkeep of track roadbed (i.e., proper drainage and control of vegetation).

    (2) Motive Power and Equipment -- Both railroad cars and locomotives are subject to the following regulations:

  • Equipment standards -- require periodic inspection and maintenance of running gear (wheels, axles, couplers, and attachments), underframes, and car bodies;
  • Safety appliance standards -- give specifications for handbrakes, running boards, ladders, handholds, uncoupling levers, and related items;
  • Power Brake Law -- contains instructions for the testing and maintenance of airbrake equipment systems; and
  • Noise Emission Regulations -- contains procedures for the testing of total noise emitted by rail cars and locomotives to assure compliance with noise emission standards.
  • In addition, locomotives are subject to inspection in the following areas:

  • Cab -- lights, whistles, sanders, and train control systems must be operational;
  • Electrical equipment -- wires must have adequate insulation; pantographs (the framework that extends to high voltage lines on electric locomotives) and related equipment must be properly insulated, grounded, and maintained;
  • Engine -- must be free from defects that could be a safety hazard (i.e., cause a fire or explosion) such as certain types of oil or fuel leaks; and
  • Boilers -- safety valves, rivets, staybolts, etc., must be maintained. There are different standards for boilers or steam powered locomotives ("historical trains") and for boilers used to produce heat on diesel, diesel-electric, or electric trains.
  • (3) Signals and Train Control -- The most common signal systems currently in use, in increasing order of complexity, are:

  • Automatic Block -- the train signals for each block (length of track) are activated by the movement of a train over the track circuit. These systems are normally used for continuous through sections of single or multiple track;
  • Interlocking -- In those areas where a great number of switches are found (terminals, yards), it is necessary to have the switches and their related signals controlled from a central point. In order to prevent collisions or derailments occurring as a result of human error, the various switches are interlocked in such a way that their movements can only occur in a predetermined order; and
  • Traffic control -- Train movements along several hundred miles of track are remotely controlled from a central point. This system combines aspects of the automatic block and interlocking systems.
  • All signal systems must operate on a "fail-safe" principle in that any breakdown in the system should cause a signal to display a more restrictive aspect or direction than it displayed previously, requiring the train to slow or stop. Such an aspect or signal takes the form of a specific configuration of lights or semaphores.

    Each of the above systems can be supplemented by any of the following:

  • Cab signals -- display the same aspect within the engine cab as at the wayside;
  • Automatic train control -- controls the speed of the train in accordance with track conditions ahead; and
  • Automatic trainstop B stops the train when the engineer fails to respond to a signal, or in some other emergency.
  • Federal law requires that all plans to install or modify any of the above systems receive prior approval from the agency that administers railroad safety laws and regulations. A railroad safety inspector reviews blueprints or proposed signal systems to insure that they meet required specifications. For example, the design of track circuits is checked to assure that a train within the block will always activate the proper signal and the placement of signals reviewed to assure that there is adequate braking distance between signals and switches.

    Also, various components of signal and train control systems are subject to periodic inspection and testing to insure that they are functioning properly. Among the items checked are:

  • switch mechanisms;
  • interlocking machines;
  • signal aspects (lights or semaphores);
  • track circuits, including relays and insulated rail joints;
  • wires and cables; and related mechanical, electrical, electronic, and pneumatic devices.
  • (4) Hazardous Materials -- Among the items classified as hazardous materials are explosives; compressed gases; flammable gases, liquids, and solids; poisonous gases, liquids, and solids; oxidizing materials; corrosives; and radioactive materials.

    The Federal Government has established regulations for the handling of hazardous materials on all modes of transportation.

    As applied to the railroad industry, these regulations cover the following:

  • methods of loading and unloading, switching, and placement in trains of hazardous materials shipments;
  • placarding (labeling) of shipments according to hazardous classification; and
  • specifications for the manufacture, testing and retesting of hazardous materials containers (tank cars, barrels, boxes).
  • In addition, railroad safety inspectors have some responsibility for enforcing hazardous materials regulations among shippers, consignees, and freight forwarders using rail transportation including chemical plants, oil refineries, and explosive manufacturers. Inspectors observe loading and unloading procedures for such items as:

  • density of compressed gases;
  • maintenance and operation of safety valves, plugs, and vents on tank cars;
  • blocking and bracing of hazardous materials containers in freight cars; and
  • documentation of hazardous commodities on shipping papers (waybills).
  • (5) Operating Practices-- Each railroad has its own set of operating rules that require employees to do their work in a certain manner.

    Operating rules must meet minimum standards set by Federal regulation, and will usually include instructions regarding:

  • interpretation of signal aspects;
  • speed on various sections of track;
  • protection of work crews on open track;
  • methods for inspection and testing of various pieces of equipment, such as airbrakes and switches; and
  • use of safety equipment in certain sections of the yard (hard hats, goggles).
  • Safety inspectors observe railroad employees on the job to determine if the operating rules are adequate and if employees are receiving proper training in safe operating practices.

    Also, operating records are checked to see that the railroad is in compliance with Federal laws regarding:

  • maximum hours of service for certain groups of railroad employees;
  • blue signal protection of workers;
  • reporting of accidents meeting minimum criteria of damage and/or injury; and
  • employee qualifications and testing.
  • Finally, railroad safety inspectors conduct on-site observations to determine railroad compliance with Federal regulations regarding safety procedures such as:

  • blue signal protection of workers;
  • rear end marking devices;
  • radio communications; and
  • protection of trains and locomotives.
  • Specialist positions

    One category of specialist position for which benchmarks have been developed, is located at the regional level of the agency responsible for enforcing Federal safety laws and regulations. These specialists are nonsupervisory technical experts in specialized areas that correspond to those identified for inspector positions and are responsible for administering the regional program for that specialized area. Program administration involves such activities as assuring uniform interpretation of regulations and standards, balancing assignments across district lines to assure equitable workload and even coverage, identifying regional trends, initiating special studies and projects to combat regional problems, and maintaining continuous contact with top management of railroad carries located in regions to foster understanding of and cooperation with railroad safety programs and resolve widespread and recurrent problems.

    As with the inspector positions, specialist positions follow a general pattern regardless of specialization and involve such functions as:

  • technical program administration;
  • expert advisory service to inspectors and railroad officials;
  • investigation of complex accidents, complaints, and requests for waivers; and
  • technical review of the work of inspectors in the corresponding specialization.
  • Specialists also participate with senior staff personnel in reviewing and evaluating new or proposed policies, procedures, and regulations or prototype equipment including signal systems, locomotives, cars, containers, or track components.

    Investigator positions

    Some positions in this series are located in a Federal agency that is responsible for investigating major accidents in all modes of transportation. Since the railroad accidents investigated often have many contributing causes, incumbents of these positions must know the interrelationships among the various railroad specializations discussed above.

    Federal law provides guidelines for declaring a railroad accident "major" and thus requiring investigation by this agency. Those guidelines cover the dollar amount of damage to railroad and other property, numbers of fatalities, type of rail service involved, or unusual circumstances that could be of interest in, and contribute to, improving railroad safety. Investigations of the most sensational, catastrophic accidents are normally led by an investigator-in-charge from the headquarters with the field investigators participating as the chairpersons of functional teams. The investigation of all other railroad accidents is assigned to field investigators. The investigation of major railroad accidents is likely to involve several complicating factors:

  • pressures of public and private interests in the accident from local citizens, Congress, insurance companies, railroad organizations;
  • the need for quick and valid selection of information to be released to the news media at the accident site;
  • the natural confusion at the scene of an accident and the unintentional destruction of evidence by curious bystanders or work crews;
  • contradictory statements among witnesses or reluctance to talk due to liability implications; and
  • relationships with other Federal and State agencies that may be involved in the investigation.
  • Railroad accidents are normally assigned to field investigators on a rotational basis. After a preliminary review of the circumstances, however, the investigator may request assistance from others with particular areas of expertise (signal systems, locomotives, etc.) and conduct the investigation using a team approach. Accident investigations require considerable judgment, tact, and creativity to develop the facts and organize them into a consistent report that reconstructs and explains the event. When conducting accident investigations, the investigator:

  • examines train wreckage, track, signals, etc., for evidence of structural failure or equipment malfunction;
  • conducts or observes equipment tests, crash simulations, or reconstruction of components involved in the accident;
  • examines train orders, operating rules, and other records that may provide information about the cause of the accident;
  • determines the need and arranges for metallurgical or chemical analyses of wreckage;
  • questions witnesses at the scene or at public or deposition hearings;
  • as agency spokesperson, answers questions regarding the investigation from reporters and officials on the scene;
  • evaluates the adequacy of existing safety inspection laws and procedures in preventing similar accidents and, as necessary, recommends new legislation;
  • evaluates investigative products and techniques of contributing accident investigators from outside the agency and recommends changes; and
  • writes a report for agency release that includes findings as to the probable and contributing cause or causes of the accident and recommendations for preventing future occurrences.
  • Differences between inspector and specialist positions and accident investigator positions

    As mentioned earlier, inspectors and specialists also become involved in accident investigations, but mainly to determine if a violation of existing safety regulations occurred or if inspection procedures should be modified. The investigators are more concerned with the root causes of major accidents and will usually conduct more in-depth investigations including crash simulations, reconstruction of wreckage, and formal hearings. The recommendations of investigators usually range beyond Federal regulatory issues to include major modifications in the design of railroad equipment and facilities, revision of the standards for railroad operation issued by the Association of American Railroads, or adoption of emergency plans by railroads or communities.

    Railroad Safety Inspector, GS-2121-05

    Duties

    The incumbent is a trainee inspector for the agency that administers and enforces Federal safety laws and regulations that apply to the railroad industry. Receives classroom and on-the-job training in the areas of:

  • the application of Federal safety standards and regulations to railroad operating practices, recordkeeping, and equipment;
  • basic inspection and testing techniques for safety appliances, track geometry, switches, and other components of railroad equipment and operations; and
  • the functions and operations of the agency.
  • Assists higher graded inspectors by performing specific tasks such as:

  • obtaining routine documents such as train consists and timetables;
  • taking measurements of track gage and cross-level, checking wheel flange and timing relays, and performing other routine tasks;
  • sketching or photographing defective equipment; and
  • preparing segments of routine inspection or other reports.
  • Railroad Safety Inspector, GS-2121-07

    Duties

    The incumbent works for the agency that administers and enforces Federal safety laws and regulations that apply to the railroad industry. Based on general knowledge of railroad safety practices and basic inspection techniques, the inspector receives in-depth classroom and on-the-job training in such areas as:

  • the specialized operations, equipment and recordkeeping of various types of railroad service, and the unique problems of each type of service as related to railroad safety;
  • the fundamentals of railroad accident investigation;
  • Federal safety standards for locomotive engines, airbrakes, track structure, signal and train control systems, or other complete electrical or mechanical systems used by the railroad; and
  • inspection of shipper facilities for proper loading of hazardous materials.
  • Performs limited portions of inspections, complaint investigations, and accident investigations such as:

  • inspecting a group of freight cars for safety appliance defects;
  • interviewing minor witnesses and, as necessary, taking signed statements;
  • checking hazardous materials shipments for proper placarding and placement in the train;
  • conducting routine reviews of personal injury, hours of service, or repair records for compliance with Federal regulations;
  • observing required switch tests and inspecting switch mechanisms for proper maintenance; and
  • preparing complete inspection and complaint reports or portions of accident reports (for example, preparing diagrams of the accident site).
  • Answers routine inquiries from railroad employees and the general public regarding Federal safety regulations and reporting procedures.
  • Railroad Safety Inspector (Motive Power and Equiptment), GS-2121-09

    Duties

    The incumbent is assigned to a District Office of the agency that administers and enforces Federal safety laws and regulations that apply to the railroad industry. Performs a variety of routine inspections, investigations, and other assignments in the area of motive power and equipment.

  • Inspects a group of freight cars in a railroad yard for compliance with safety appliance and equipment standards and prepares a written notice of defects to be repaired.
  • Inspects one or more components of locomotives for safety defects (e.g., engine, electrical system, brakes, running gear, steam generator) and prepares defect notices.
  • Conducts follow-up inspections to see that required repairs have been made.
  • Instructs railroad employees on the proper testing and maintenance of various types of air brakes.
  • Conducts noise emission tests on locomotives and cabooses.
  • Investigates single employee fatalities on railroad property involving moving equipment and prepares a written report.
  • Investigates complaints of unsafe working conditions in equipment repair shops and locomotive cabs.
  • Assists higher-graded inspectors in investigating derailments, collisions, or other accidents and gathering documentation for prosecution of railroads that continually refuse to repair defective equipment ("violation work").
  • Receives, as necessary, additional classroom and on-the-job training in locomotive inspection, accident investigation, and the inspection of new types of air brakes and other railroad equipment.
  • Railroad Safety Inspector, GS-2121-09

    Duties

    The incumbent is assigned to a District Office of the agency that administers and enforces Federal safety laws and regulations that apply to the railroad industry. Performs various routine inspections, investigations, and other duties concerned with railroad operating practices and the handling of hazardous materials.

  • Inspects all phases of hazardous materials handling in a trainyard including placarding, containerization, and placement in trains and checks tank cars for compliance with equipment and safety appliance standards.
  • Investigates carrier compliance with Federal regulations and standards in the areas of hours of service, accident reporting, blue signal protection of workmen, rear end marking devices, radio communication, and railroad employee qualifications and testing.
  • Evaluates railroad operating rules for adequacy from a safety standpoint under various operating conditions; investigates complaints of unsafe conditions or violations of Federal regulations and standards and, as necessary, collects documentation for prosecution.
  • Investigates single employee fatalities on railroad property to determine probable cause and prepares written report;
  • Gives safety talks to railroad employees to explain new safety rules or to review safe operating practices.
  • Assists higher-graded inspectors who are investigating reportable railroad accidents, especially those involving hazardous materials or controversial operating rules, and inspecting shipper facilities for proper loading and documentation of hazardous materials being shipped by rail.
  • Receives, as necessary, additional classroom and on-the-job training in accident investigation, the properties of hazardous materials, and new types of railroad equipment used to transport hazardous materials.
    Railroad Safety Inspector (Motive Power and Equiptment), GS-2121-11

    Duties

    The incumbent is assigned to a District Office of the agency that administers and enforces Federal safety laws and regulations that apply to the railroad industry. Enforces and promotes safety standards and regulations concerned with motive power and equipment on all common carrier railroads within an assigned territory.

  • Plans and carries out an itinerary of periodic inspections that provides maximum coverage of the railroad cars and locomotives in the territory, concentrating inspection activities on those carriers which have a high incidence of accidents, complaints, or violations. Inspects and observes tests of railroad rolling stock and related appurtenances to determine compliance with applicable laws, rules, regulations, emergency orders, and standards. Prepares inspection reports identifying defects or violations and provides all supporting documentation required to assure successful prosecution.
  • Investigates complaints from railroad employees, union officials, and the general public regarding unsafe or unhealthy conditions on railroad property. Attempts to resolve complaints informally, especially if no applicable regulation exists. Prepares report of findings and recommendations for corrective action including defect or violation notices, as appropriate.
  • Evaluates railroad petitions for waivers from portions of Federal safety standards. Makes recommendations to approve or reject petitions and provides supporting documentation.
  • Maintains familiarity with motive power and equipment conditions in assigned territory. Confers with carrier personnel and labor unions to promote cooperation in the improvement of railroad safety. Interprets new regulations for railroad officials, employees, and unions. Identifies the need for and conducts safety meetings and training sessions for railroad employees.
  • Inspects new or prototype equipment to assure that it meets Federal safety requirements. Inspects equipment repair facilities to determine if equipment is being properly tested, repaired, and maintained by the carrier. Prior to or during assembly and installation at manufacturers' plants and railroad facilities, inspects and observes tests of components of railroad rolling equipment to determine whether such parts are suitable for the service intended.
  • Investigates independently or as part of a team derailments, collisions, and other accidents and incidents. Witnesses equipment-related tests, examines pertinent operating documents, and questions employees and witnesses to develop all the facts. Determines probable cause of the accident or incident and whether Federal regulations were violated. Develops comprehensive report which outlines the findings.
  • Trains and works with State inspectors involved in the enforcement of Federal freight car safety standards under State participation programs within the assigned territory.
  • Uses decibel meter to take noise reading on locomotives and cabooses and applies EPA standards to determine if noise levels are within acceptable levels.
  • Maintains awareness of new types of airbrakes, locomotives, railroad cars, and inspection techniques through periodic training sessions, contacts with manufacturers and carriers, and review of current literature.
  • Railroad Safety Inspector (Hazardous Materials), GS-2121-11

    Duties

    The incumbent is assigned to a District Office of the agency that administers and enforces Federal safety laws and regulations that apply to the railroad industry. Promotes and enforces standards and regulations concerned with the shipment of hazardous materials by rail within an assigned territory. Plans and carries out an itinerary of periodic inspections of the handling of hazardous materials at rail facilities, industries using rail transportation, shippers, consignees, and freight forwarders. This involves inspecting such things as:

  • loading, unloading, and documentation procedures;
  • packaging, marking, and labeling of hazardous materials shipments;
  • railcars for compliance with equipment and safety appliance standards;
  • containers for compliance with regulations concerning their construction, testing and retesting;
  • switching and movement of cars in railyards; and
  • placement and placarding of hazardous materials cars in trains.
  • Prepares reports of findings including violation reports with all pertinent documentation to assure successful prosecution in both civil and criminal cases.
  • Investigates complaints from railroad employees, unions, and the general public concerning unsafe practices in the transportation of hazardous materials. Interviews witnesses and examines pertinent documentation. Prepares reports of findings with appropriate recommendations for action.
  • Investigates, independently or as part of a team, reportable accidents and incidents involving hazardous materials. Determines probable cause and whether Federal regulations were violated. Develops report which outlines findings.
  • Observes new methods of packaging, testing, and shipping hazardous materials to ensure that they meet Federal regulations. Reviews blueprints, specifications, and test models of railcars and other hazardous materials containers to ensure that they meet Federal requirements. Reports findings and makes recommendations for acceptance, rejection, or modification of methods and equipment.
  • Maintains familiarity with hazardous materials conditions in assigned territory. Confers with carrier personnel, labor unions, shippers and consignees to assure uniform interpretation of regulations and promote cooperation in the improvement of railroad safety. Interprets new regulations and conducts training courses as necessary.
  • Advises industry, local and State authorities, and other interested parties of current hazardous materials regulations. As requested, conducts safety meetings and training sessions for firemen and other emergency responsive groups regarding the proper handling of hazardous materials incidents and accidents.
  • Railroad Safety Inspector (Track), GS-2121-11

    Duties

    The incumbent is assigned to a District Office of the agency that administers and enforces Federal safety laws and regulations that apply to the railroad industry. Promotes and enforces standards and regulations concerned with the maintenance of track and related structures for common carrier railroads within an assigned territory.

  • Plans and carries out an itinerary of periodic inspections that provides maximum coverage of the track systems in the territory. Inspections are conducted by walking or using motor cars, high-rail vehicles, locomotives, and track geometry and defect test cars to identify deviations in cross-level, gage, profile, and alignment and locate internal rail flaws. Prepares track inspection reports identifying necessary corrective action. Conducts follow-up inspections and, as appropriate, prepares violation reports including all documentation to assure successful prosecution.
  • Investigates complaints from railroad employees, the general public, unions, or State or local governments regarding unsafe track conditions. Interviews complainants and railroad officials and inspects track conditions. Prepares report of findings, citing defects or violations as appropriate. Where no defect was found, explains the circumstances to the complainant to assure a clear understanding of why no action was taken.
  • Maintains familiarity with track conditions in assigned territory. Confers with carrier personnel and labor unions to promote cooperation in and understanding of the railroad safety program. Interprets regulations for railroad officials, employees, and unions. Identifies the need for and conducts safety meetings and training sessions to explain Federal requirements and standards.
  • Conducts investigations of railroad accidents and employee fatalities. Makes onsite inspection of condition of track structures and related components, interviews employees and witnesses, witnesses or arranges for track-related tests, and examines pertinent railroad documents and records. Prepares written report outlining findings, identifying probable cause, and citing Federal regulations which were violated.
  • Participates in the training of State employed candidates for acceptance into the State Participation Program for track inspection. Evaluates the progress of the candidates and prepares written evaluation report.
  • Participates in evaluating State requests for Federal aid to upgrade low density rail lines. Monitors the progress of repair work after aid has been granted.
  • Railroad Safety Inspector (Signals and Train Control), GS-2121-11

    Duties

    The incumbent is assigned to a District Office of the agency that administers and enforces Federal safety laws and regulations that apply to the railroad industry. Promotes and enforces safety standards and regulations concerned with signal and train control systems and related components within an assigned territory.

  • Plans and carries out an itinerary of periodic inspections of all signal and train control systems in the territory to assure that they are properly installed, operated, tested, and maintained. This involves inspecting and observing tests of signals and train controls and related components to determine their safety and compliance with applicable laws, regulations, rules, and standards. Based on inspection findings, develops and submits defect or violation reports.
  • Investigates complaints from railroad employees, union officials, and the general public regarding unsafe or hazardous signal and train control conditions (e.g., false proceeds). When conditions warrant, submits violation reports with all supporting documentation to assure successful prosecution. Investigates complaints concerning the malfunction of highway crossing protection under the broad purview of the Railroad Safety Act of 1970, and recommends necessary corrective action.
  • Evaluates railroad applications to install, modify, or remove portions of a signal or train control system (e.g., redesign several miles of automatic block signals). Makes recommendations for approval, rejection, or modification of the plan. Assists the Regional Specialist in evaluating the most complex applications by analyzing portions thereof and making preliminary recommendations. Reviews and evaluates carrier applications for waiver of requirements of Federal regulations and standards applicable to signal systems. Makes recommendations to approve or reject applications.
  • B Confers regularly with railroad management and labor officials to keep abreast of all signal and train control developments in assigned territory. Promotes understanding of and cooperation in the railroad safety program. Interprets regulations for railroad officials, employees, and unions. Identifies the need for and conducts safety meetings and training sessions to explain Federal requirements and standards. Assists railroad employees in the review of specifications and plans for developing and adapting signal and train control systems to assure consistency with Federal regulations and standards.
  • Investigates, independently or as part of a team, reportable collisions, derailments, employee fatalities, and other accidents, especially those involving possible signal or train control failure. Investigates the highway crossing protection equipment when the accident involves train and vehicle collision. Conducts on-site examination and testing of signal systems and components and signal circuit plans to determine compliance with applicable safety rules and regulations. Submits report of findings.
  • Assists Regional Specialist in the evaluation of new state-of-the-art signal equipment. Inspects and observes tests of the equipment and recommends acceptance or prohibition of such equipment.
  • Railroad Safety Inspector (Motive Power and Equiptment), GS-2121-12

    Duties

    The incumbent is assigned to a Regional Office of the agency that administers and enforces Federal safety laws and regulations that apply to the railroad industry. Serves as the Region's safety expert on motive power and equipment.

  • Administers the Regional motive power and equipment program. Provides uniform interpretation and application of laws, orders, rules, and regulations pertaining to motive power and equipment, air brake tests, and noise emission. Keeps motive power and equipment inspectors advised of changes in regulations and standards and new technical developments in motive power and equipment. Makes continuing evaluations of the inspection territories and recommends changes in territories assigned to inspectors to assure effective and equitable work distribution. Reviews inspection schedules and accomplishments to assure that the frequency and priority of inspections at carrier locations in the Region are realistic and well-balanced. Reviews inspection and complaint reports to identify trends in Regional safety and persistent health and safety hazards and initiates special studies and enforcement programs to address these problems and develop solutions. Represents the agency in contacts with top railroad officials to assure understanding of program methods and objectives and to resolve widespread and/or recurring safety problems in the Region. Keeps headquarters advised of unique problems, practices, and activities occurring in the Region.
  • Provides technical guidance and direction in the interpretation of various laws, orders, rules, and regulations promulgated by the agency in the motive power and equipment area. Reviews technical reports including inspection, investigation, employee fatality, waiver, accident, and violation reports submitted by field inspectors to assure proper content, adequacy of inspection and reporting procedures, and proper documentation. Periodically accompanies inspectors on field visits to observe inspection methods and techniques and provide onsite guidance and advice. Assures that all inspectors in the specialization are fully trained and technically competent.
  • Evaluates the background, knowledge, and technical proficiency of candidates for state inspector positions in the State Participation Program. The evaluation includes written and practical examination and on-site testing of technical proficiency in the enforcement of the Federal Freight Car Safety Standards. Maintains liaison with State regulatory agencies and monitors State inspection activities to assure compliance with Federal laws and regulations.
  • Coordinates the investigation of serious train accidents involving motive power and equipment and the preparation of the report with input from inspectors assigned to the investigation. On occasion, leads teams investigating major accidents in the Region or participates as the team's motive power and equipment expert. Testifies at hearings regarding the results of equipment tests or inspections carried out at the accident site. Evaluates probable cause to determine whether Federal regulations have been violated and if there is a need for additional regulations. Makes appropriate recommendations to headquarters.
  • Reviews blueprints, specifications, and test models of prototype railroad cars and locomotives to assure that they meet existing Federal regulations.
  • Composes correspondence relative to motive power and equipment matters including complaint close-out letters, responses to requests for information on regulations or standards, and reports on special studies or investigations conducted in the Region.
  • Railroad Safety Specialist, GS-2121-12

    Duties

    The incumbent is assigned to a Regional Office of the agency that administers and enforces Federal safety laws and regulations that apply to the railroad industry. Serves as the Region's safety expert in hazardous materials and operating practices.

  • Administers the Regional hazardous materials and operating practices programs. Provides uniform interpretation and application of laws, orders, rules, and regulations pertaining to these areas. Keeps inspectors advised of changes in regulations and standards, new programs, and technical developments. Makes continuing evaluations of the inspection territories and recommends changes in areas assigned to inspectors to assure effective and equitable work distribution. Reviews inspection schedules and accomplishments to assure that the frequency and priority of inspections at carrier and other locations in the Region are realistic and well-balanced. Review inspection and complaint reports to identify trends in Regional safety and persistent health and safety hazards and initiates special studies and enforcement programs to address the problems and develop solutions. Represents the agency in contacts with top railroad and shipping officials to assure understanding of program objectives and methods and to resolve widespread and/or recurring safety problems in the Region. Keeps headquarters advised of unique problems, practices, and activities occurring in the Region.
  • Provides technical guidance and direction in the interpretation of various laws, orders, rules, and regulations promulgated in the hazardous materials and operating practices areas. Reviews technical reports including inspection, investigation, employee fatality, waiver, accident, and violation reports submitted by inspectors to assure proper content, adequacy of inspection and reporting procedures, and proper documentation. Periodically accompanies inspectors on field visits to observe inspection methods and techniques and provide on-site guidance and advice. Assures that all inspectors are fully trained and technically competent.
  • Coordinates the investigation of serious train accidents involving hazardous materials or possible violations of operating practices and rules. Directs the preparation of the accident report with input from inspectors assigned to the investigation. On occasion, leads teams investigating major accidents in the Region or participates as the team's operating practices or hazardous materials expert. Testifies at hearings regarding the findings of on-site or other inspections. Evaluates probable cause to determine if Federal regulations have been violated and if there is a need for additional regulations. Makes appropriate recommendations to headquarters.
  • Directs the investigation and resolution of complex complaints received from railroad employees, unions, or the general public. In many cases, complaints can involve areas for which no Federal regulations exist or for which other agencies are responsible. Assures that all complaints which identify a valid safety or health hazard are resolved using whatever authority is required, including that of State or local governments or other Federal agencies.
  • Confers with car builders and container manufacturers on the construction of tank cars and other hazardous materials containers to ensure that they meet with specifications and existing Federal regulations. Reviews changes in railroad operating rules to assure conformance with Federal requirements.
  • Composes correspondence relative to hazardous materials or operating practices including complaint close-out letters, responses to requests for information on regulations or standards, and reports on special studies or investigations conducted in the Region.
  • Conducts meetings and training seminars for State and local authorities on safe procedures for handling railroad accidents and incidents involving hazardous materials. Represents the agency on Regional committees to standardize hazardous materials enforcement policies across all modes of transportation.
  • Railroad Safety Specialist (Signals and Train Control), GS-2121-12

    Duties

    The incumbent is assigned to a Regional Office of the agency that administers and enforces Federal safety laws and regulations that apply to the railroad industry. Serves as the Region's safety expert on signals and train control.

  • Administers the Regional signal and train control program. Provides uniform interpretation and application of laws, orders, rules, and regulations pertaining to signals and train control and related components. Keeps signal and train control inspectors advised of changes in regulations and standards and new technical developments in the specialization. Makes continuing evaluations of the inspection territories and recommends changes in territories assigned to inspectors to assure effective and equitable work distribution. Reviews inspection schedules and accomplishments to assure that the frequency and priority of inspections at carrier locations in the Region are realistic and well-balanced. Reviews inspection and complaint reports to identify trends in Regional safety and persistent health and safety hazards and initiates special studies and enforcement programs to address these problems and develop solutions. Represents the agency in contacts with top railroad officials to assure understanding of program methods and objectives and to resolve widespread and/or recurring safety problems in the Region. Keeps headquarters advised of unique problems, practices, and activities occurring in the Region.
  • Provides technical guidance and direction in the interpretation of various laws, orders, rules, and regulations governing signal and train control systems. Reviews technical reports submitted by inspectors including regular inspection, employee fatality, accident violation, false proceeds, application for change, and waivers for content, adequacy of inspection and reporting procedures, and proper documentation. Periodically accompanies inspectors on field visits to observe inspection methods and techniques and provide on-site guidance and advice. Assures that all inspectors in the specialization are fully trained and technically competent.
  • Coordinates the investigation of serious train accidents involving signals and/or train control and the preparation of the report with input from inspectors assigned to the investigation. On occasion, leads teams investigating major accidents in the Region or participates as the team's signal and train control expert. Testifies at hearings regarding the results of signal tests or inspections carried out at the accident site. Evaluates probable cause to determine if Federal regulations have been violated and if there is a need for additional regulations. Makes appropriate recommendations to headquarters.
  • Evaluates railroads' requests to install or modify major portions of a signal or train control systems to assure that Federal safety standards will be met and determine that the proposed change will provide adequate protection for existing train operations. Makes recommendations to approve, reject, or modify the plan.
  • Represents the Region on agency wide committees to develop new or modified signal and train control regulations or related operating rules.
  • Railroad Accident Investigator, GS-2121-12

    Duties

    The incumbent works in a field office of the agency that is responsible for investigating major accidents on all modes of transportation.

  • Investigates rail transportation accidents that meet the legal criteria for being declared "major" and are thus subject to investigation by the agency. Rail systems covered include common carrier passenger and freight railroads and urban mass transportation lines (e.g., subway and elevated systems).
  • Leads investigation teams composed of other agency employees, railroad safety inspectors, railroad officials, manufacturers representatives, State and local government officials, etc.; determines areas to be investigated and tests and interviews to be conducted; serves as spokesperson for the agency to the public and media at the accident site.
  • Using a variety of investigative techniques, gathers and develops technical and regulatory accident evidence relating to any or all phases of railroad operations and equipment; analyzes data to determine what factors may have contributed to the cause of the accident; and determines the adherence to and adequacy of railroad safety regulations.
  • Arranges for the acquisition of additional accident evidence through deposition sessions; interviews witnesses and questions industry officials to determine circumstances leading to and surrounding the accident.
  • Evaluates the adequacy and completeness of investigative techniques and products; writes final reports detailing the circumstances surrounding the accident and the probable and contributing cause or causes; and proposes recommendations to prevent future occurrences.
  • In the investigation of the most severe or catastrophic railroad accidents, serves as the chairperson of an investigative team organized under the auspices of the investigator-in-charge. Conducts an intensive, in-depth investigation into assigned area, coordinates work of other investigative personnel assigned to the team, and prepares and coordinates the final report outlining findings and conclusions and recommending corrective action. Serves as expert witness and panel member in assigned area during public hearings.
  • Conducts or participates in special studies or projects to improve railroad safety in the region; evaluates patterns of railroad accidents and prepares reports recommending changes in Federal laws or enforcement techniques.
  • Leads or assists on teams investigating intermodal accidents (e.g., a highway grade crossing collision between a train and a bus); assists on teams investigating accidents on other modes of transportation (e.g., highway, air) by interviewing witnesses, assisting in crash simulations and reconstruction of wreckage, or performing similar duties.
  • Individual Occupational Requirements

    General Experience (for GS-5 positions):

    Experience that provided:

    • Knowledge of the construction, operation, overhaul, maintenance, repair, or installation of mechanical, electrical, or electronic equipment used in an industrial setting;
    • Ability to read and understand written material; and
    • Ability to read and interpret blueprints, specifications, or related technical material.

    Qualifying general experience may have been gained in work such as:

    • Machinist, electrician, switchtender, brakeman, fireman, or gang foreman with a railroad.
    • Electrician in an industrial setting that involved evaluating blueprints for accuracy and tracing defects in circuitry.
    • Repairing or installing industrial type diesel engines or electric motors.
    • Engineering technician work that involved preparation of blueprints and testing or design of mechanical, electrical, or electronic equipment.
    • Maintaining, inspecting, or testing bulk containers used to transport hazardous materials such as explosives, compressed gases, poisons, or radioactive material on any mode of transportation.
    • Installing or repairing mechanical, electronic, or electrical equipment, such as track or signal systems, on rapid transit systems.
    • Firefighting or fire inspection involving industrial-type equipment in oil refineries or chemical plants.

    OR

    Education (for GS-5 positions only):

    Major study -- engineering, electronics, physics, occupational or industrial safety, or other fields related to the position.
    Education is not creditable for positions above the GS-5 level. The superior academic achievement provision is not applicable to positions in this series.

    Specialized Experience (for positions above GS-5):

    For GS-7: Experience that demonstrated:

    • Knowledge of basic safety practices and techniques related to the railroad industry; and
    • Basic inspection techniques.

    For GS-9 and above: Experience that demonstrated:

    • Knowledge of the railroad industry, including economic and operating considerations and equipment;
    • Knowledge of the general safety and health principles and practices applicable to the railroad industry;
    • Knowledge of railroad accident investigation techniques; and
    • Skill in written and oral communication.

    In addition, applicants for inspector and specialist positions must demonstrate possession of the knowledge, skills, and abilities for the specialization for which application is made to the degree required by the position. Only those elements required by the position to be filled, as identified below, will be used in evaluating candidates' specialized experience.

    Hazardous Materials:

    • Practical knowledge of the typical reactions of different hazardous commodities to various environmental conditions and of safe procedures for containing or controlling fires, leaks, or explosions of these materials;
    • Knowledge of the construction, testing, and retesting of containers used to ship hazardous materials by rail; and
    • Knowledge of Federal regulations and standards governing the shipment of hazardous materials by rail, including containerization, loading, handling, documentation, and placarding.

    Track:

    • Knowledge of railroad track system construction, maintenance, testing, or inspection techniques;
    • Knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of various track system configurations; and
    • Knowledge of Federal railroad track safety standards.

    Signals and Train Control:

    • Knowledge of the design, installation, maintenance, testing, or inspection of signal and train control systems and their capabilities and limitations;
    • Knowledge of applicable Federal laws and regulations pertaining to railroad signaling and train control systems; and
    • Knowledge of locomotive braking systems and their relationship to and interface with train control or automatic train stop systems and braking distances.

    Operating Practices:

    • Knowledge of railroad operating practices, rules, and procedures, especially as they relate to safety issues; and
    • Knowledge of Federal regulations and standards relating to railroad operations and requirements in such areas as hours of service, accident reporting, blue signal protection of workers, rear end markers, radio communication, railroad employee qualifications, and railroad employee testing.

    Motive Power and Equipment:

    • Knowledge of the design, maintenance, or inspection of various types of locomotive and freight cars currently in use and their capabilities and limitations;
    • Knowledge of the installation, maintenance, or testing of railroad safety appliances and power brakes, their capabilities and limitations; and
    • Knowledge of the applicable Federal laws and regulations pertaining to inspection and testing of locomotives, freight cars, safety appliances, and power brakes.

    Qualifying specialized experience may have been demonstrated in work such as:

    • Government railroad safety work.
    • Signal maintainer, gang foreman, locomotive engineer, conductor, maintenance-of-way inspector, or yard master for a railroad.
    • Inspector of work methods, final work products, or safety practices for a railroad equipment manufacturer.
    • Hazardous materials work for other modes of transportation that involved interface with the railroad industry.

    INTERVIEW

    Applicants may be required to demonstrate in a pre-employment interview that they possess the personal characteristics necessary for Railroad Safety work.

    REQUIREMENTS FOR MOTOR VEHICLE OPERATION

    Incumbents of positions in this series must possess and maintain a valid State motor vehicle operator's permit while they are employed in order to perform the duties of the positions.

    Information on obtaining Railroad Safety Specialist positions with the Federal Government is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS, the Federal Government's official employment information system. This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.usajobs.gov or through an interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724–1850 or  (703) 724–1850  or TDD (978) 461–8404 and   (978) 461–8404. These numbers are not toll free, and charges may result. For advice on how to find and apply for Federal jobs, download the Insider's Guide to the Federal Hiring Process” online here.

    Source: OPM's Position Classification Standards for White Collar Work


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