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C3RS is an FRA-funded program to improve railroad industry safety practices. By learning about potentially unsafe conditions, or close call events, that pose the risk of more serious consequences, corrective actions can be taken. Stakeholders include railroads, labor organizations, FRA, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), although NASA is not signatory to the Implementing Memorandum of Understating (IMOU). In 2007, C3RS began as a demonstration pilot project. In 2014, the demonstration pilot project ended, and FRA began transitioning C3RS into a national proactive safety initiative. FRA encourages all railroads to participate in C3RS. In late 2022, FRA proposed and received approval through the Railroad Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC) to expand C3RS nationwide (Task 2022-03).
NASA has administered a similar and very successful program, the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), since 1976 and has received over one million reports from the aviation community without ever violating a reporter’s confidentiality. NASA is an independent, respected research organization that does not have a regulatory enforcement interest. It therefore can serve as an objective, trustworthy broker of reports submitted by frontline personnel in the railroad industry.
- Provides an environment in which railroad employees can voluntarily and confidentially report close calls without fear of discipline or punishment.
- Accepts close call reports.
- Stores confidential data.
- Analyzes close calls to identify trends, new sources of risk, and corrective actions to address them.
- Distributes reports on trends and other information for use by participating parties.
- Tracks railroads’ corrective action reports to measure C3RS’s impact on safety.
- Identifies ways to improve C3RS’s effectiveness.
The IMOU is based on the Memorandum of Understating (MOU) developed by the original C3RS Steering Committee prior to implementation of the demonstration pilot phase. The Steering Committee consisted of railroad stakeholders representing railroad management, labor, associations, and FRA. The IMOU outlines stakeholder rights, roles, and responsibilities, and it describes how the system will operate. Each participating railroad must develop its own IMOU that is tailored to the needs of local stakeholders while remaining consistent with the principles and values set forth in the model MOU. The purpose of the IMOU is to obtain full agreement from all parties to cooperate in C3RS.
Railroad employees who are included in written IMOUs can participate in C3RS. Only eligible employees from railroads participating in the program receive protection from discipline for certain qualified events. Eligible employees and the conditions under which they receive protection are described in the IMOU for each participating site. Anyone submitting a report to NASA will receive confidential treatment.
Data are used to improve safety through:
- Learning why reported unsafe events occurred.
- Assessing risks and allocating resources to address them.
- Taking corrective action to address factors contributing to unsafe events.
- Sharing lessons learned within and among sites about why unsafe events occurred, and how corrective action was taken to address them.
C3RS provides the following benefits:
- A safer and healthier work environment for employees
- The chance to learn what happened in close call events industrywide and to use the information to prevent similar or more serious incidents from recurring
- Improved trust and partnerships among FRA, railroads, and labor unions
- Increased efficiency, cost savings, and return on investment from reduced claims and litigation as well as from corrective actions that target systematic solutions shown through the analysis of close calls
- More time to focus on getting into the field and running a safe operation because of fewer investigations
- Safer communities nationwide
Events are not accepted if they:
- Occur outside boundaries indicated in the IMOU.
- Result in intentional damage to operations or equipment or injure other individuals.
- Involve the deliberate endangerment of others.
- Involve criminal offenses or falsified information.
- Involve substance abuse or inappropriate use of controlled substances.
- Involve reportable accidents/incidents (49 Code of Federal Regulations and Section 225.1), unless listed by a railroad through an exception in the IMOU.
- Involve hazmat release.
- Are real-time observations reported to railroad management or an FRA inspector or are a part of operations testing.
Incidents involving an injury are not covered under C3RS.
No, safety issues requiring an immediate response should be reported to existing safety reporting processes or systems.
Information from your close call report will make the work environment safer and healthier for you and your coworkers. The information that you provide will enable your railroad to identify factors that contribute to accidents or injuries and to correct these problems before they result in harm. It will also contribute to improved productivity through reductions in time lost from injuries, decreased damage to railroad property and the environment, and less time required to move customers’ goods. Find out how to report a close call here.
C3RS reports are accepted from employees when they are operating within the boundaries of an IMOU or when operating on another railroad that has an approved C3RS IMOU in effect. For tenant/host C3RS operations, the host railroad’s IMOU will govern tenant operations.
Peer Review Teams (PRTs) involved with tenant/host operations agree to meet as often as needed and work collaboratively on cases that require corrective actions by the host railroad. Both PRTs agree to function in the spirit of open dialogue, freely exchanging close call data in the interest of improving railroad safety on their respective railroads.
- NASA will send the report to the employee’s home railroad.
- Some reports will require collaboration between the tenant railroad’s PRT and the host railroad’s PRT.
- Confidentiality must be maintained.