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Rail News: Safety

PHMSA proposes rail hazmat safety rule; Amtrak signs safety pledge

The PHMSA rule was proposed based in part on lessons learned from the Feb. 3 derailment of a Norfolk Southern Railway hazmat train (shown) in East Palestine, Ohio.
Photo – ntsb.gov


The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has proposed a new rule that would require railroads to maintain and update in real time information about rail hazmat shipments in a train consist that would be accessible to authorized emergency response personnel.

Railroads would also be required to proactively “push” that information to authorized local first response personnel as soon as the railroad is aware of an accident involving any hazardous materials, PHMSA officials said in a press release.

The rule is aimed at improving public safety and preventing environmental impacts by strengthening requirements governing railroads’ provision of hazardous materials information to responders during a hazmat incident, they said.

"On-demand access to key information about hazmat shipments coupled with proactive information sharing will enable first responders to better prepare for the risks present at the scene of an incident before they arrive on scene," said PHMSA Deputy Administrator Tristan Brown. “This will improve safety for firefighters and first responders, and the communities they so courageously serve.”

The notice of proposed rulemaking would require all railroads to generate, in hard copy and electronic versions, real-time train consist information for shipments containing hazardous materials. Required information would include the quantity and position of the shipment on the train, the shipment’s origin and destination and a designated emergency point of contact at the railroad.

The proposal responds to congressional mandates in the federal FAST Act, a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation and lessons learned from firefighters responding to the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern Railway train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, PHMSA officials said.

Meanwhile, Amtrak announced yesterday that all 11 of the railroad’s executives have signed Operation Lifesaver Inc.’s rail safety pledge.

The pledge asks those who sign to challenge others to commit to staying safe near railroad tracks and trains.

Every three hours in the United States, a person or vehicle is hit by a train, OLI and Amtrak officials said in a joint press release. According to the Federal Railroad Administration, trespassing along railroad rights-of-way is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in America; railroad crossing incidents are the second leading cause.

"While we show up every day to deliver a safe experience for our customers, employees and communities, we can only do so much as individuals," said Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief Safety Officer Steve Predmore. "Rail Safety is a team effort. As we continue to grow, the best resource to address track incidents is to come together as one."

OLI’s rail safety pledge can be viewed here.