BNSF Contractor Orientation Course 2013

This course can be duplicated for student handouts.

Once you have reviewed all three sections of the orientation and completed and submitted the review questions, you will be forwarded a course completion card (within 7 days) and will be immediately listed on the administration database located on the home page of this site. You must be listed on the administration database in current status to work on-site at BNSF, for BNSF Engineering work groups. In the case of emergency or short notice work, special provisions may be made to cover safety issues
via a thorough on-site job safety briefing. This is not a matter of routine.

If you have not yet registered, please make sure that you go to the registration page on the website home page and register. If you take
this course and are not properly registered it may slow our response down in posting your name on the completion database.

While on site, BNSF Engineering contractor personnel are required to carry a current copy of the course completion card from website. 

Note: When you are connected through a modem, this page may load slowly due to the photographs.

Section One

General Information

BNSF Engineering contractors are to complete a Safety Action Plan. The Safety Action Plan form is available from the Safety Action Plan Section of this website. This plan includes the following information:

* A BNSF project representative is the BNSF employee who coordinates a contractor's work activities or is the BNSF interface for the contractor, while the contractor is on-site, e.g. construction engineer, roadmaster, Structures supervisor or Signal supervisor.

A copy of your completed safety action plan form is to be submitted electronically to the web-master of this site. A hard copy of your completed safety action plan form is to be provided to your BNSF Project Representative. An additional hard copy is maintained with each of your work groups.

Emergency preparedness plans are to be developed by the contractor and communicated to the contractor’s/subcontractor’s employees. In some cases contractors will need to interface with BNSF project representatives to obtain specific addresses, the names of local, fire responsible /medical/ police agencies.

Included in what workers need to know are answers to the following:

Note: When work group is mobile indicate this information is covered in start of shift job safety briefings.

Note: In yard areas, consider that access routes may, at times, be blocked by trains.

Contractors are to conduct work practice / facility assessments (audits) of their operations at BNSF. The frequency of these assessments and participants are to be determined by contractor management/supervision and stated in the Safety Action Plan submitted to BNSF. Assessment findings need to be documented and available for inspection by BNSF assessment groups, upon request.

BNSF personnel - safety assessment teams, Safety & Rules personnel, Industrial Hygiene personnel, Environmental personnel, BNSF project representatives - may conduct unscheduled assessments of contractor operations.

On-site contractor supervision will be notified of any BNSF assessment findings. The contractor will be required to provide a written response as to planned or completed corrective actions. In the most severe cases, for example, where very serious discrepancies are found, a contractor may be asked to discontinue work and/or be removed from consideration of future work at BNSF.

BNSF Safety & Rules, Industrial Hygiene, Environmental personnel and BNSF project representatives are authorized to stop contractor operations where there is imminent jeopardy to the safety/health of personnel, or where damage to equipment, property, or the environment seems highly probable.

BNSF Engineering contractor personnel need to have knowledge of, and comply with, applicable regulatory requirements FRA and OSHA, DOT, EPA or equivalent state environmental regulations, and local fire and building codes.

Again, this orientation is not intended to address all the regulations that contractors need to be aware of, and comply with when working under agreement/contract for BNSF Engineering on BNSF property.

Reporting of Injuries/Illnesses/Property and Equipment Damage

Contractors need to promptly advise their BNSF project representative of all work-related injuries/illnesses. The BNSF project representative needs to, in turn, complete the BNSF Non-Employee Personal Injury form, and submit this form to the BNSF Accident Reporting Center. The BNSF Accident Reporting Center determines FRA report ability and submits the required information to the FRA, when appropriate. Remember that contractors are responsible for meeting applicable OSHA reporting and recordkeeping requirements.

As is the case with work-related injuries/illnesses, all damage to railroad property needs to be promptly reported to the responsible BNSF project representative.

General Requirements

Horseplay will not be tolerated. Remember that personnel witnessing such actions have the responsibility to intervene.

The use of pocket knives as tools is prohibited. Personnel need to be challenged to find the right tool/procedure for the specific job.

The possession of drugs, alcohol and weapons is prohibited.

Any contractor employee under suspicion of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or in the possession of same; will be removed from the immediate job-site and subsequently released to the custody of a representative of contractor management. Future access to the property will be denied.

Workers are not to wear/use items that impair hearing or vision. Listening to personal radios, nanos, mp3 players, CD players, or tape players is prohibited while on-site. The BNSF project representative will advise of project requirements relating to cellular phone/Blackberry use.

Do not walk, step, sit or stand on the rail. This is one of the very basic safety requirements at BNSF. Also, some rails are conductors of electrical current and are, therefore, an integral part of the railroad’s operating system. Devices that could shunt current are not to be laid across rails. No hand or portable power tools are to be left against the rails.

Maintain adequate clearance around on-track railroad equipment. Do not cross between railcars/locomotives, or do not attempt to climb underneath railcars to reach the other side of the track. With the exception of properly secured tool cars, where authorized, there is no reason for contractor personnel to enter railcars. When passing in front of standing on-track railroad equipment, allow 25 feet of clearance.

Crossing immediately in front of moving equipment is prohibited. Do not make any movement towards an on-coming train or make any equipment moves in a manner that may lead the train engineer to think that you are about to foul the track.

Do not attempt to grab onto and ride moving railroad equipment.  Maintain 25 feet of clearance from switches and do not operate switches,
unless specifically directed otherwise by the responsible BNSF Project Representative.

Maintain 25 feet clearance from centerline of track unless your work requires you to enter this area and you have specific instructions from the responsible BNSF project representative to do so. (See section 3 for Roadway Worker Protection information).


The violent movement of arms would be taken as an indication by train engineers and the operators of other on-track equipment to STOP.

When giving a STOP signal of this type to an operator of off-track equipment, make sure that it will not be mistakenly interpreted by the
engineer/operator of an approaching train/piece of on-track equipment as an indication to him to stop.

Should an emergency situation arise and your assessment indicates a need to stop the movement of trains and other on-track equipment,
immediately attempt to contact the BNSF emergency number: 800-832- 5452.

Where you have identified an emergency need to stop trains/on-track
equipment, again you can accomplish this by violently waving your arms or swinging your hard hat in a circular motion. Remember that it may take a train a distance of up to 1.5 miles to come to a stop. Be sure that you have a clear emergency when taking this serious action, as there are risks of personal injury to train crew members and expensive mechanical repairs should a train go into an emergency.

Job Safety Briefings

Well thought-out job briefings can positively affect the safety, quality and productivity of projects.
To develop your work plan, as communicated through your job safety briefing:

Consider existing / potential hazards (not all inclusive):

Establish a circle-of-safety (safety zone) around mobile construction equipment and tool operations. Other personnel are not to enter the “circleof- safety” without first communicating with the operator/person using the tool. When considering the dimensions of this safety zone factor in such things as operator experience, weather conditions, type of equipment, etc.

Consideration: When weather conditions start to deteriorate (for example a heavy snow storm) and suspension of the job is being considered, the responsible supervisor needs to factor in that the on-site employees will need adequate time to safely reach their home or lodging facility.

Consider how work assignments are to be made.

Make sure employees understand their assigned duties.

Solicit questions of the “how” and “why” type to determine the level of understanding.

Carefully explain job tasks to workers.

When conducting a job safety briefing discuss existing or potential hazards and ways to eliminate them or protect against them. Again,
encourage input from members of the work team.

Clearly define work assignments.

Where jobs are somewhat complex consider briefing only a portion of the job at a time. Conduct additional briefings as the job progresses.

During the course of a job, should it become necessary to change plans or procedures, brief workers on such changes.

Examples of Changes:

Follow-up activities need to be conducted in support of a job safety briefing.
The follow-up is conducted to:

All employees are responsible to see that the work plan is being carried out in accordance with the job safety briefing, and that the plan is modified when conditions change.

Example 1: After attending the main job-safety briefing for the group, Tom and Terry are going to manually lift and carry, as a team, a piece of construction material. Tom and Terry as a team need to have an additional job-safety briefing which would advise of such concerns as:
sharp edges, tripping hazards in the path of travel, and emphasize that anyone who begins to lose their grip shouts a warning. These types of operations requiring additional safety briefings for small groups of workers are not uncommon.

Example 2: Tom shows up to work today and is feeling "a little under the weather,” he should to have a good enough relationship with his supervisor that he could comfortably bring this to the attention of his supervisor. His supervisor would then be able to consider Tom's illness when assigning job tasks for that day.

* When a person approaches your job-site, a representative from your work group needs to meet the person before he enters the immediate job-site.  Determine the person's reasons for visiting the job-site and conduct a job safety briefing with the visitor(s). Visitors need to be referred to the employee-in-charge to receive track authority information, as applicable.

Job De-Briefings

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Various items of personal protective equipment (PPE) need to be worn when on BNSF property.

Hardhats need to be worn at all times except when in office areas - performing office related activities, when in highway vehicles, or when in
the enclosed cabs (doors and windows closed) of equipment. ANSI Z89.1 is to be shown on a decal inside of approved hardhats. "Cowboy hat" type hardhats are not to be used on-site.

Safety shoes meeting the requirements of the applicable ASTM standards need to be worn at all times except when in office areas performing office related tasks. Safety shoes need to be above-the-ankle, lace-up boots with a well-defined heel, and safety toe. The safety toe may be steel or composite material.

Eye protection needs to be worn at all times except when in office areas performing office tasks or when in highway vehicles on paved roads or with windows up. The marking ANSI Z87.1 appears on the temple bars and lenses of items of approved safety eyewear. An engraved monogram at the top center of safety glasses lenses, plain or prescription indicates that the lenses are in fact safety lenses.

Safety glasses are available in three materials glass, plastic and polycarbonate. Polycarbonate is the strongest of the materials.
Polycarbonate is a high index material; therefore, polycarbonate lenses are lighter than glass or plastic lenses of like prescription. Glass has the best scratch resistance qualities.

Safety glasses are to have permanently affixed side shields. The reason for this is to help ensure that quality side shields is used, and to
make sure that the side shields are in-place, when needed. Yellow lenses tints are not acceptable as they may affect the ability to distinguish colors. Reflective/mirrored lenses are also not to be worn when on-site!  Your eyesight is precious, always wear protective eyewear as required and upgrade your protection to impact goggles, or face shield over impact goggles when faced with more severe xposures! Contractors need to have guidelines in place as to what tasks/conditions require the upgrading of eye protection from safety glasses to impact or splash goggles or, in more severe eye hazard situations to impact or splash goggles under a face shield. Workers also need to receive training/counseling to help them to make good decisions in this regard.

ANSI Level II or III orange, retro-reflective, flame resistant (FR) workwear needs to be worn by Engineering contractor personnel working in right-ofway areas (including within 25 feet of track centerline), when working within 50 feet of operating construction equipment and when highway flagging.


  1. ANSI class III garments are to be worn when performing highway flagging activities at roads with posted speeds at or in excess of 50 MPH.  Personnel contracted to perform highway flagging operations are to have the appropriate certification, and perform flagging activities in accordance with the applicable requirements of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), and applicable State and/or local requirements.
  2. The contractor is responsible for verifying that the material of garment construction is appropriate for the work to be performed. Again, all garments must, as a minimum, have FR characteristics.

Orange/retro-reflective vests are specified for use when working at intermodal facilities. Check with your responsible BNSF project
representative, in advance, to ensure that you are meeting the BNSF local division or work group requirements for orange, retro-reflective work wear.

Hearing and respiratory protection need to be worn as designated by signage in BNSF areas, and otherwise, in accordance with OSHA
requirements. A contractor’s Safety Action Plan needs to document that personnel who will be wearing items of hearing or respiratory protection have successfully completed required training, fit-testing (respirators), and medical surveillance programs.

Appropriate cold weather gear needs to be provided and worn, as necessary. Training in relation to cold weather safety as well as heat related disorders and precautions needs to be completed where appropriate.

Appropriate hand protection is required to be worn when actively engaged in work activities, except:

Remember that no one glove type or material is good across-the-board for all work activities. Be careful to select the right glove for the job.

Note: Do not wear jewelry, wrist watches, long watch or key chains, or other suspended jewelry when they present a hazard around machinery or electrical lines and equipment. Finger rings may not be worn on-site except in office areas when performing office tasks.

Contractors do not need to use the same PPE manufacturers or suppliers as BNSF, or follow the same program parameters, beyond what is stated above. There are OSHA requirements to provide training in the selection and use of PPE.

Electrical Work

Contractors performing electrical work are to comply with the procedural, personal protective equipment (PPE), and workwear requirements of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces. It is the contractor’s responsibility to verify that their personnel involved in electrical-related work activities have the required training and qualifications to safely perform this work.

Housekeeping/Materials Staging and Storage

Good housekeeping is critical to the prevention of many slip, trip and fall, and struck-on injuries. Contractors need to maintain clean work areas.  Proposed storage locations need to be approved by the BNSF project representative. This approval is particularly important when proposing storage within 25 feet of track centerline. Obviously material and equipment needs to be stored where it will not be struck by a train or on-track equipment, or where it will obstruct the view of railroad crossings.

Further on housekeeping, keep walkways clean, and free of slip hazards such as spilled liquids, or materials that may lead to trips and falls. Post appropriate warning signs to identify workplace hazards.

Vehicles and Job-Site Access

The license plate numbers of contractor highway vehicles are to be registered through this website for safety and security reasons. The confirmation registration sign indicating the company name/number associated with the vehicle is to be conspicuously displayed on the dashboard of the vehicle that has been registered. This requirement does not apply to rental vehicles or work equipment.

Use established routes of travel. For emergency preparedness purposes, two means of egress should be available from right-of-way work areas.  Should you see a need to establish a new or another route of entry/egress, to a work-site, be sure to obtain specific approval from the responsible BNSF project representative. Remember that areas adjacent to our rights of - way may be private property, or wetland or watershed areas.

To protect against unauthorized access and/or use, unattended equipment needs to be shut-off, with brakes set. Remove keys, and lock cabs, where so equipped. Buckets and blades need to be lowered to the ground.

Provide a lockable master battery disconnect switch. Verify that the master battery disconnect switch is left in the off or disconnect position and padlocked, when equipment is left unattended.

Consider where equipment has an enclosed cab, the installation of a lockable hasp on cab access doors. Padlock equipment when left
unattended. This will prevent the use of easily obtainable universal keys to access equipment cabs.

Do not leave unattended equipment within 25 feet of track centerline, unless obtaining specific approval from the responsible BNSF project
representative. Under no circumstances is equipment to be left where it is within 8' 6" of track centerline, or otherwise could be struck by a train, or materials on a train, or on-track equipment.

On and off-track equipment, trains, or cars are not to be parked or stored within 250 feet of a crossing, where it may interfere with the sight distance of vehicle operators approaching a crossing.

Do no park in areas of high grass or brush for fire reasons. Hot vehicle undercarriages can initiate a wildfire.

Come to a complete stop and verify clearance in both directions before driving across internal maintenance crossings that do not have automatic warning devices. Keep in mind that the angle of vehicle approach, door post design and width, trees, and structures can affect your ability to clearly spot on-track traffic at a glance. Carefully look both ways then look both ways again. Avoid shifting gears when crossing tracks.

BNSF vehicles, equipment and tools are not to be operated / used by contractors without specific authorization from the responsible BNSF
project representative. BNSF employees are not to use/operate contractor vehicles, equipment, and tools, unless specifically directed by the BNSF project representative to do so, and only when the BNSF employee feels qualified to safely operate the vehicle/equipment/tool.

Contractors need specific authorization to operate hy-rail vehicles on BNSF track. Where authorization is granted, a BNSF Maintenance of Way Rules Qualified employee will serve as an escort to the contractor operator.  Remember to factor in grade, field of vision, track condition, and weather conditions when estimating stopping distance.

Personnel who are passengers on on-track work equipment must have specific authorization from the equipment operator, and must:

Personnel must not ride on push cars except those designed for that purpose.

Note: Comply with RSAC requirements for on-track equipment/vehicle operation and maintenance.

Hand and Power Tools

Hand and portable power tools need to be maintained and inspected in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions. Defective tools need to be immediately removed from service, and labeled “out-of-service”, or the equivalent, so that others will not inadvertently use them. Workers need to receive appropriate/required training in the inspection, maintenance and use of hand and portable power tools that they work with.

The use of ground-fault circuit interrupters, or the equivalent, where appropriate, needs to be in place at job-sites.

Pressurized hydraulic lines are not to be directly handled with bare or gloved hands.

Longitudinal Positioning of Continuous Welded Rail (CWR)

1.) Conduct a pre-job risk assessment which includes consideration of the following:

Risk assessment findings are communicated during job safety briefings.

2.) Safe Zones

Exception: Where highway flaggers need to be located at grade crossings in curves, a flagger on the low side must be at least 25 feet from the rail being positioned. Where practical, at crossings with anchored signal apparatus, a highway flagger on the low side is to establish a flagging position that is also protected from unexpected rail movement by the apparatus.

3.) Rail Positioning Operations

Before beginning to position rail, verify the following steps have been taken:

Communication is essential.

The diameter of the “circle of safety” must be communicated to all personnel involved in the operation.

Hazards Communications/Hazardous Materials:

Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) are developed and provided by chemical manufacturers, distributors and importers. These documents provide important information about chemical products, including: hazardous ingredients, recommendations for storage/handling/use, health hazards, PPE recommendations and fire and spill information.

Copies of MSDSs of chemicals being used/stored need to be maintained with your work groups.

Any questions regarding hazardous materials being used in BNSF operations need to be directed, through your BNSF project representative, to the responsible BNSF supervisor. The responsible BNSF supervisor will provide you with the requested MSDS sheets.

In addition to maintaining MSDSs on-site, contractors need to verify that all chemical containers are labeled with the chemical name and appropriate hazard warning. Many safety equipment suppliers carry a large line of chemical labels and hazard warning decals.

Contractors using hazardous materials on-site need to document in their BNSF Engineering Safety Action Plan that their employees have completed Hazards Communication Training. Contractors need to comply with applicable DOT regulations when transporting hazardous materials.  Included in a Hazards Communication Program is a review of the types of information provided on a MSDS, requirements for container labeling, and specific discussion of the hazards of hazardous materials worked with or around.

When performing work in occupied areas take adequate precautions to keep BNSF personnel and other contractors from being exposed to noise, air contaminants, and/or eye hazards from operations such as saw cutting, cutting/welding, powder actuated tools, and the application of paints, sealants and adhesives.

Weedspray applicators need to have advance, live communication with responsible roadmasters prior to initiating spray application. The exchange of voicemail messages regarding the intent to spray is not acceptable. The responsible roadmaster is responsible for communicating weedspray plans to affected BNSF and contractor workgroups!

Contractors will be held responsible for the costs of work interruptions occurring as a result of their negligence.

Asbestos containing materials (ACM) are not to be used in the construction or maintenance of BNSF facilities. Contractor personnel are to immediately stop work activities and notify their responsible BNSF project representative upon encountering any materials suspected of containing asbestos.

Notices are posted in affected BNSF structures to advise which materials in a building are known to contain asbestos, how much ACM is present, and where it is located.

The Safety Action Plan of contractors involved in asbestos abatement activities will need to document that affected workers have current status in asbestos related training, as required by applicable governmental regulations.

Contractor's involved in asbestos removal activities need to work with their responsible BNSF project representative to verify that personnel in adjacent work areas are fully aware of on-going activities and precautions that have been put in place.

Contractors are to refrain from using lead-based products; e.g., lead-based containing paints. When performing hot work on lead-containing materials, develop and implement work policies and practices that comply with the OSHA Lead Standard.

Compressed gas cylinders of fuel gas and oxygen, whether full or “empty”, need to be separated in storage by a distance of 20 feet or by a barrier having a fire-resistance rating of at least one-half hour. Cylinders are to be secured in the upright position.

Note: Have a labeling system in place to distinguish full and in-use from empty cylinders.

Exception: Some acetylene systems are designed to operate with the cylinders secured in a horizontal position. It would seem unlikely, however, that BNSF contractors would be utilizing these types of systems on-site.

Fire Prevention/Suppression

Open fires are prohibited on BNSF property, except in limited situations where specific permits have been obtained. Open fires are not to be left unattended.

Contractor personnel who may operate portable fire extinguishers or other fire suppression equipment need to receive appropriate, annual training.  Portable fire extinguishers are to be visually inspected monthly, with an annual formal inspection. Other portable fire protection systems need to be inspected prior to the start of shift, with formal inspections as required by applicable regulatory requirements.

Your job planning activities and job safety briefings need to clearly define your fire prevention strategies and procedures (e.g.; spark shields, prewetting), availability and staging of on-site fire prevention and suppression equipment. During job planning meetings and job briefings, be sure to address basic issues such as: no smoking in right-of-way areas in proximity to combustible vegetation; and no parking vehicles over dry vegetation. 

Develop and use a right-a-way fire assessment form when performing hot work activities in BNSF right-of-way areas. This form will be a checklist of dos and don’ts and require contact information with local fire agencies to determine response times and whether any fire restrictions are in place.

Flammables and combustibles need to be stored, handled and used in accordance with local fire codes. Grounding and bonding procedures need to be followed when dispensing flammables. Metal safety cans are to be used for the storage of flammable liquids. DOT rated cans are to be used where required by regulation. A one gallon metal safety can may be used in the transportation of gasoline.

Blasting Operations

Handheld radios and other communications equipment that may interfere with blasting operations are not to be used within 250 feet of such operations. Special permits may be required for blasting operations.


BNSF applies OSHA lockout/tagout regulations to construction activities and work equipment related repair/service activities, as well as, to fixed facilities systems. Lockout/tagout procedures are used during the maintenance, repair or service of equipment or systems which could unexpectedly start-up, energize or release stored energy.

Lockout/tagout operations, where BNSF personnel and/or operations are affected, need to be coordinated with the responsible BNSF project representative and other, affected BNSF personnel.

Tunnel Safety

There are several key safety and health considerations when completing construction activities in tunnels:

Note: California OSHA Tunnel Safety regulations are one source for guidelines relating to tunnel safety.

Crane Safety

Maintain the displayed minimum clearances from high voltage lines. The most conservative distance, 45 feet, needs to be maintained when line voltage is unknown.

Do not stage or store materials in proximity to overhead lines, so as to place other personnel - other contractors or BNSF employees - in a
potentially hazardous situation during future material handling operations.  Reference Chart Below


Power Distance from Power Line
50 KV or below 10 feet
50 KV - 200 KV 15 feet
200 KV - 350 KV 20 feet
350 KV - 500 KV 25 feet
500 KV - 750 KV 35 feet
750 KV - 1000 KV 45 feet

In addition to electrical lines, overhead signal and telecommunications lines are present in BNSF yards and rights-of-way. Be sure to address overhead clearance issues during job safety briefings for projects involving cranes.  Use a signalman during crane operations when operating within "one boom length" of the identified clearance distance.

Note: Similar concerns with overhead lines exist when operating equipment such as dump trucks, and using equipment such as ladders and poles.  Have procedures in place to remind personnel to properly stow booms and outriggers when preparing to travel.

All crane operators are to be appropriately trained in the operation of their equipment. Training needs to include familiarity with the load capacity chart specific to the equipment that they are operating. Outriggers are to be deployed as specified in the load chart.

Be sure to identify and address any potential underground hazards that may affect the safe operation of cranes and other heavy equipment.

Material Handling Accessories

Use only below-the-hook lifting devices that are certified by a qualified individual or manufacturer. Certified below-the-hook lifting devices will have a permanent nameplate or marking stating the following information:

Contractors are to have a program in place for the inspection/maintenance of below-the-hook lifting devices, slings and lifting chains.

Use taglines, or equivalent, to guide suspended loads as appropriate.