Seven unions ask FRA to address safety surrounding damaged haz-mat containers (3/29/2011)


Last week, seven rail labor units jointly filed comments with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) seeking safer conditions for workers who handle damaged hazardous materials containers. The FRA routinely grants railroads special permission to transport damaged hazardous materials containers via mainlines to repair facilities, according to the unions.

However, the number of requests has more than doubled since 2007, “thereby subjecting rail workers to an unacceptable risk of exposure,” union officials said in a joint statement. The unions include the American Train Dispatchers Association, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, Transport Workers Union of America, Transportation Communications Union and United Transportation Union.

Union officials believe the FRA should investigate and address the underlying causes for the increasing number of movement requests. In addition, employees should be notified and provided protection — such as emergency breathing apparatus — when they help move and/or work in the vicinity of damaged containers, they said.

Currently, there are no federal regulations requiring railroads to provide train crews with safety equipment to protect them from exposure to hazardous materials, according to the unions. There have been no injuries or known exposures during the past 16 years, "but the risk of employee exposure will only increase if the current rate of movement approvals continues," union officials said.

Source: Progressive Railroading Daily News