An EOT won't apply emergency braking or sound the horn if a person is standing in the tracks or a car is stopped on a crossing during a reverse move. The caboose is only for the reverse moves so there's someone on the head end to keep an eye out for obstructions. On regular switching moves, like down a siding, the conductor can simply hang off the ladder on the side of a car. When a reverse move is required to go an extended distance, say a few miles, which would cause fatigue to set in making it harder for the conductor to hold on, or the train goes through unfavorable areas like a long narrow bridge where falling from the train would likely result in more than a little bruise, then a caboose (or "riding car") is used. Some railroads will also use a second locomotive for these moves if a caboose is unavailable.
Guilford Rail System used to do these operations with an old burned-out caboose. It was only used for the end platforms, as the interior was not usable. The doors were welded shut, with "do not occupy" painted on them.
Trains aren't dangerous, it's lack of common sense that's dangerous.