Safety Moment #9: Another No Contest

Safety Moment Amtrak train hits car

The Incident

Safety Moment #3 — No Contest — showed an incident that occurred recently in which a car got stuck on the train tracks and was then hit by a locomotive. In spite of the seriousness of the event there is some good news. The people in the car got out of the vehicle and away from the immediate scene. Therefore, although their car was destroyed, no one was hurt.

About four years previously a more serious incident occurred at a crossing just down the tracks from the one just shown. The barriers were down for many hours; the bells were ringing and the lights were flashing, as shown in this clip. Nevertheless a lady chose to drive across the tracks by dodging around the barrier. Unfortunately for her an Amtrak train was just pulling out of the station and hit her car at an estimated speed of 9.5 mph. The car was spun around and dumped on the tracks as shown.

Safety Moment Amtrak train hits car

Fortunately, the train hit the rear of the car. So, although the driver was injured, she was released from hospital almost immediately.

Lessons Learned

The lesson to be learned from this incident is simple: do not go around safety barriers of any kind without receiving permission from the persons who put them there.

In all these Safety Moments we try to determine what the Process Safety Management (PSM) lessons are.

When reviewing an incident such as this it is useful to determine which elements of Process Safety Management (PSM) failed and which were effective. There are many PSM systems; they vary from country to country and company to company. But they are all broadly the same. There are different ways of organizing these elements. The system that we use for these Safety Moments is that developed by the Center for Chemical Process Safety (CCPS). 

  1. Process Safety Culture
  2. Compliance
  3. Competence
  4. Workforce Involvement
  5. Stakeholder Outreach
  6. Knowledge Management
  7. Hazard Identification and Risk Management
  8. Operating Procedures
  9. Safe Work Practices
  10. Asset Integrity / Reliability
  11. Contractor Management
  12. Training / Performance
  13. Management of Change
  14. Operational Readiness
  15. Conduct of Operations
  16. Emergency Management
  17. Incident Investigation
  18. Measurement and Metrics
  19. Auditing
  20. Management Review

The two elements that we highlight for this incident are ‘2. Compliance’ and ‘4. Workforce Involvement’. The driver of the car did not comply with the rules to do with crossing the tracks and she clearly did not see herself as being involved in the railroad’s safety program.


The reality is that all of us, at one time or another, have probably chosen to ignore or violate a safety barrier or procedure. Therefore, if you are presenting this Safety Moment to a group, conduct a quiz. Ask each person to share one situation where they knowingly chose to ignore a safety sign or safeguard. Here is mine.


Early in my career I was working on a very large chemical plant. The walk from the front gate to my office was lengthy so I often took a short cut through one of the operating units. This meant, however, that I had to cross a yellow line without having permission.

One day the unit supervisor saw what I was doing and I was reprimanded. I never took that short cut again.