Norfolk Southern engineer’s safety warning was unheeded before Ohio derailment, NTSB says

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Cleanup efforts continue on parts of the derailed Norfolk Southern freight train on February 9, 2023 in East Palestine, Ohio.

Gene J. Puskar | AP

norfolk southern Supervisors ignored an engineer’s safety concerns before a train loaded with toxic chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, in February. for preliminary findings released on Thursday National Transportation Safety Board investigation,

According to the NTSB, the day before the train derailment, an engineer in Decatur, Illinois, expressed his concern about the size of the train to the yardmaster. But the engineer told the agency he was told, “Well, that’s what they want,” the findings showed.

“If you talk to the manager, he said this train is 100% regulatory compliant. In my opinion, you know, you’ve got 32% weight at the headend. Twenty percent and 40% weight in the middle. Re-end. So, to me, that’s why we reported it to the yardmaster and as I said that’s what they want,” the Decatur engineer said.

Norfolk Southern responded by stating that the Federal Railroad Administration has not set regulatory requirements on train configuration, and that the train met its internal policies regarding train configuration at the time of the East Palestine derailment.

Norfolk Southern spokesman Connor Spielmaker told CNBC, “Every accident is an opportunity to learn. We are collaborating with labor leadership and our craft employees to increase safety, we have brought in an outside safety consultant and we are following industry leadership Committed to doing.” in an email.

NTSB released its findings before the start two day hearing On Thursday’s derailment. The purpose of the hearing is to address preparedness during the initial emergency response, the decision-making process regarding evacuation and burning of vinyl chloride tank cars, and the investigation of freight car bearings failure modes and wayside detection systems.

On February 3, Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous chemicals derails, is releasing toxic chemicals into the environment near Ohio’s border with Pennsylvania. Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw has pledged support for residents of East Palestine, Ohio, though critics say he hasn’t gone far enough.

In a separate statement, the Transportation Communications Union told the NTSB that a period of three minutes to three minutes and 45 seconds is sufficient for maintenance personnel to inspect a train car. But the union said Norfolk Southern has reduced the average inspection time to about one minute after the company’s new train scheduling strategies, which TCU believes is insufficient for a comprehensive inspection of each train.

The company replied that it did not have a policy limiting the time frame for car inspections.

Norfolk Southern further objected to the union’s allegation, saying that the current average car inspection time is about two minutes. The company said this is over a minute above the average that was determined by professional Craft railroaders performing the same inspections and offered as a guide to crews.

“It is not accurate to say that NS has ‘reduced’ the standard time for car inspections since the implementation of the PSR. What we have done is documented and standardized what a proper inspection looks like, and how long it takes The railroader must meet that inspection,” Spielmaker said.