Norfolk Southern Agrees to Enhance Safety Measures at East Palestine Derailment Site

Norfolk Southern agreed to enhance safety measures for workers cleaning up the site of its February derailment and chemical spill in East Palestine, Ohio.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that the rail giant agreed with the federal government and the Teamsters’ rail maintenance worker division to enhance working conditions and crew training after federal inspectors discovered the company had broken a number of regulations, including not requiring or enforcing the use of protective gear.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fined Norfolk Southern $49,111 for not developing an emergency response plan that included clear lines of authority, communication and training, site security, adequate site control, and decontamination areas, failing to require workers to wear chemical resistant footwear when walking on contaminated soil, allowing employees without respiratory protection to pour cement on potentially contaminated soil, and for not training workers about hazardous chemicals.

According to federal officials, the railroad has agreed to pay the fines by August 31st, along with implementing a medical surveillance program for all affected employees who worked at the derailment site, providing union employees with 40 hours of Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response training for future derailments, and creating a training program on lessons learned from the Ohio derailment.

According to OSAH Area Office Director Howard Eberts in Cleveland, the agreement will improve safety for workers and help prepare the rail operators if another emergency should occur.

“This agreement will improve the safety and health controls in place for Norfolk Southern employees who responded and help educate the rail operator’s employees on the lessons learned so they are prepared should another emergency occur. We are pleased by the collaborative safety and health efforts of Norfolk Southern Corp, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, and contractors from the clean-up site who have been working together on this site remediation,” Eberts said.

On February 3rd, 50 train carriages, 10 of which were carrying hazardous materials, derailed as a result of a technical problem with a rail car axle, according to federal authorities. There was vinyl chloride in five of the vehicles. Hundreds of residents evacuated due to the controlled release of poisonous gasses that Norfolk Southern carried out on February 6th to stop an explosion.

For months, cleanup operations have been ongoing. To free up more funds for the effort, Governor Mike DeWine urged the Biden administration to declare a major presidential disaster last month.

According to DeWine, locals have continued to report health issues and concerns about the air quality.

To continue collaborating with the neighborhood in remediation efforts, Norfolk Southern announced on Tuesday that it had bought a property for a permanent field office in East Palestine. The business pledged $500,000 earlier this month to aid in the village’s economic development in honor of the sixth month after the catastrophe.

According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, Norfolk Southern has hauled approximately 28 million gallons of liquid wastewater out of East Palestine in total. Norfolk Southern has removed 88,500 tons of excavated soil from East Palestine as of last week.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star, The Star News Network, and The Arizona Sun Times. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]







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