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SEP 08, 2022

Keeping Our Employees and Customers Safe by Leaving Equipment in the Clear

At CN, safety is our top priority. Our systematic approach leaves nothing to chance, and we continuously aim to improve our safety culture through leadership coaching, training, and resources for our employees and our customers.

As part of our continuous improvement process, we’ve added new information to our CN Customer Safety Handbook, a key resource that helps our customers identify and correct potential safety issues before they happen.

The updated version of our Customer Safety Handbook is now available on the Customer Safety page. We recommend to our customers that they ensure their teams have read and understood the best practices outlined in the handbook. Included in our September version is a deeper dive into the Foul Zone, Fouling Point, and the importance of Clearance Markers.

“Fouling” is leaving equipment on a track too close to a switch, such that a movement on an adjacent track does not have sufficient clearance to pass safely. This includes personnel riding the side of a railcar. It’s important to clearly identify this hazardous area to keep our teams and customers’ teams safe. Leaving railcars in the foul zone can lead to collisions, derailments, and, more critically, to injuries or death.

The fouling point is the point beyond which railcars must be placed to prevent their being struck by railcars running on an adjacent track from which the switch diverges. CN strongly recommends using bright green paint to create a clearance marker located xx meters / 16 feet or as far as reasonably possible beyond the fouling point.

This diagram will help you identify the fouling point, the foul zone, and the recommended guideline for painting a visual indicator of where railcars will be in the clear.

Fouling point

The point at a railroad switch or turnout beyond which railcars must be placed to prevent their being stuck by railcars running on an adjacent track from which the switch diverges.

The fouling point is located where the track centres are a minimum of 13 feet 6 inches apart (for curved tracks, add 2 inches per degree of curve) or where the tracks have become parallel.

Foul zone

The portion of track between the switch points and the fouling point.

Clearance Marker

A visual cue that clearly identifies how far back railcars need to be placed on the track, to avoid "fouling" equipment on an adjacent track.

CN recommends painting a bright green line across the entire rail tie, 16 feet after, or as far back as reasonably possible, from the fouling point.

Do not use water based paint, this will wash off from rain and snow and will require more frequent making.

Create a plan to remove the snow in those areas where snow will cover up these markings.

Customer Safety

To learn more, read our Customer Safety Handbook