A new Bluetooth headset was tried after a track worker failed to hear an alert about an oncoming train.
Brea, CA – August 2015 - Operating one of the largest rail services in the country is not as simple as running trains and tracks. Customers rely on rail employees to manage shipments of all types of products and materials quickly, affordably and, most of all, safely. Rail transportation field workers require uninterrupted communications between all team members to safely control the tracks, and there is absolutely no margin for lapse—even one missed message can put a worker in mortal danger. Ultimately, their lives depend on the quality of their portable and mobile communications equipment.
Is it really that crucial for workers to hear every single announcement? The answer is yes—it can mean the difference between life and death. For a track grinder at CN Transportation, one missed call nearly cost him his life. Earlier this year, the grinder operator was working on a track in Wisconsin when he received a call from the road traffic controller to clear the track as a train was approaching. Unfortunately, because the noise protection earplugs and earmuffs track workers wear hinder their hearing radio transmissions, especially while operating noisy equipment, the operator did not hear the multiple calls from the RTC to clear. Luckily, the train was told not to move until the operator cleared, and the employee was unharmed.
CN Transportation prides itself on offering integrated transportation solutions that eliminate logistical inefficiencies. CN’s rail network spans three coasts with over 21,000 miles of tracks, which cover 75% of North America. As a whole, the company’s top priority is to maintain the highest safety standards and CN consistently commits millions to that end.
Luck notwithstanding, an averted accident was one too many for CN Communications Engineer Lynne Tutor. She immediately called her Icom representative, who happened to be at a tradeshow, and asked him to find a more reliable communications device. She soon received Pryme Radio’s BTH-LMIC Lapel Mic Kit 2 with acoustic tube earphones and charger to use with their Icom portable radios for a free trial. Tutor sent the product to a field worker to test and waited earnestly for his feedback.
“He loved it so much that he told me I wasn’t going to get it back,” Tutor said. “I’m fully expecting the product to go system wide.”
Now workers were able to clearly hear announcements through their earmuffs and earplugs with the BTH-LMIC while working on the track. So began a valuable partnership between CN and Pryme. CN currently has about nine Pryme kits for their portable radios working in the field in three states with six more kits ready to ship to a fourth state. Their Pryme arsenal also includes the BTH-SPM 100 Compact Bluetooth Speaker Microphone, the BT520 and BT510 Bluetooth Adapters, and BT-PTT2 Wireless PTT Switch. A prominent part of Tutor’s job involves finding the right equipment for CN employees and she refuses to settle for anything less than the best.
Track workers wear LG headsets for cell phones because the Bluetooth earpiece makes it easy to wear earmuffs. For Tutor, this was good; thus she is testing two more Pryme products: Double and Single Muff headsets that will pair with the LG for radio operation. Tutor’s goal is to expand the use of her Pryme products beyond the grinder’s use to the large welder, loader, and Brandt trucks, as well as track equipment, so the operators can stay in radio contact while they are outside the truck or equipment.
“I’m always looking for something better for these guys,” Lynne said. “I can’t compromise them.”
Tutor never hesitates to include Pryme products in the care packages that she sends out to workers. The packages include everything workers need to keep them safe in the field, from flashlights to radio supplies and anything in between. Tutor’s office is the “go-to” shop for quality safety devices.
Rail workers already have a multitude of issues to manage on a daily basis. Worrying about whether a breach in communication will compromise their safety should not be one of them. Pryme stepped up to fill the communications gaps so that CN Transportation and its employees could do their jobs even more effectively and safely.