An Amtrak employee died on the job after being hit by a New Jersey Transit train in New Brunswick, NJ. The fatal collision occurred on tracks just past the Jersey Street station at around 4:45 am on March 1, 2016.
Details on the incident remain scarce. Amtrak has not disclosed why its employee was working on the tracks, though it is known that the federal passenger railroad owns the right-of-way. Also unclear is whether the crew of the New Jersey Transit train knew service was being performed along the tracks running from New Brunswick to Penn Station in New York City.
Safeguards are supposed to be in place to keep trains off stretches of track being repaired. In addition to closing switches, turning on stop lights and putting up signs, briefings and continual communication between managers, dispatchers, workers in the field and crews aboard trains should prevent tragic losses of lives like this one in New Jersey.
Amtrak has taken the lead on investigation the fatal workplace accident. Whatever the railroad finds must be shared with the state transit agency and other freight and passenger rail companies. Each work-related injury and death highlights correctable errors and insufficient procedures. Making sure similar problems do not recur must be a top priority for every decision maker in the rail industry.
Finding out what went wrong also matters for the family of the deceased Amtrak worker. Laws like the Federal Employers' Liability Act impose high duties on railroads to protect the safety and lives of their employees. If a breakdown in communications, a faulty piece of equipment or an unsafe practice by a manager or supervisor contributed to causing the deadly accident, Amtrak would likely be liable for making compensation to the killed worker's survivors.