The Federal Railroad Administration has published an Emergency Order (EO) requiring employees involved in freight and passenger rail operation under the agency’s safety jurisdiction to wear face masks as of March 1.
The EO pertains to “all persons in or on a freight train, locomotive, hi-rail vehicle, crew transportation vehicle, or in a railroad transportation facility, terminal, yard, storage facility, yard office, crew room, maintenance shop, and other areas regularly occupied by personnel engaged in railroad operations,” for example.
It implements President Joe Biden’s Jan. 21 Executive Order 13998, requiring masks to be worn in airports, on commercial aircraft and in various modes of surface transportation, including rail. That Executive Order directed the Secretary of Transportation “to take action to require masks to be worn in compliance with CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines in or on trains.” The Secretary issued an Action Memorandum on Feb. 12.
FRA noted in the EO that another reason for the issuance was “the inconsistent use of masks observed by FRA inspectors through FRA inspection and investigation during railroad operations.”
Requiring face masks “on our railroads will protect railroad employees and contractors, as well as FRA and participating State rail safety inspectors who enforce Federal railroad safety laws,” FRA wrote. “Requiring mask use will also help control the spread of the virus causing the COVID-19 pandemic, slow the rate of international spread from trains moving across U.S. borders, prevent the emergence of new variants, and more quickly re-open America’s economy.”
Under the EO, railroads must also establish “written procedures to manage situations with their personnel who refuse to comply” with mask wearing requirements. At a minimum, this includes removal from operations “for any person who is not exempted from the requirement to wear a mask and who refuses to comply with an instruction given by the railroad carrier with respect to wearing a mask.”
Additionally, violations may subject rail carriers to civil penalties of up to $118,826 for each day a violation continues.
The EO, FRA wrote, will remain in effect until the CDC Order is “modified or rescinded based on specific public health or other considerations, until the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services rescinds the determination under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 247d) that a public health emergency exists, or until rescinded by FRA, unless FRA extends its terms by subsequent notice published in the Federal Register.”