Two Agencies to Probe NS Safety Practices

Two federal agencies this week said they will investigate the safety practices of Norfolk Southern in the wake of a Feb. 3 derailment in East Palestine that resulted in the spillage of hazardous chemicals, a massive fire, and the forced evacuation of hundreds of residents.

Both agencies cited multiple incidents involving NS trains in announcing their investigations.

The Federal Railroad Administration said it would conduct a 60-day supplemental safety assessment in which it will review findings and recommendations of a 2022 system audit and the railroad’s responses.

Among the matters FRA staff will probe are track, signal, and rolling stock maintenance, inspection, and repair practices; protection for employees working on rail infrastructure, locomotives, and rail cars; communication between transportation departments and mechanical and engineering staff; operation control center procedures and dispatcher training; compliance with federal Hours of Service regulations; evaluating results of operational testing of employees’ execution and comprehension of all applicable operating rules and federal regulations; training and qualification programs available to all railroad employees, including engineer and conductor training and certification; maintenance, inspection, and calibration policies and procedures for wayside defect detectors; procedures related to all wayside defect detector alerts; and measures implemented to prevent employee fatigue, including the development and implementation of fatigue management programs required as part of FRA’s Risk Reduction Program rule;

The agency said it also will review the current status of the hazard and risk analysis required by the Risk Reduction Program rule.

In a statement, FRA officials said it will use its findings to determine specific areas for FRA oversight and enforcement and help “identify risks beyond the reach of current federal regulations.”

The FRA’s findings will be made public and will be used to prod NS into developing measures to address risks and identify enforcement actions.

The National Transportation Safety Board cited five incidents involving NS trains that prompted it to launch its investigation into the Class 1 railroad’s safety practices.

Aside from the East Palestine derailment, the NTSB said in a news release that other incidents involved a Dec. 8, 2021, incident in which a worker for a  contractor working with NS on a track replacement project in Reed, Pennsylvania, was struck and killed.

Also cited was a March 4 derailment in Springfield, Ohio, a conductor killed in an incident in Cleveland, and an October 2022 derailment in Sandusky.

“The NTSB is concerned that several organizational factors may be involved in the accidents, including safety culture,” NTSB officials said in a statement.

 “The NTSB will conduct an in-depth investigation into the safety practices and culture of the company. At the same time, the company should not wait to improve safety and the NTSB urges it to do so immediately.”

In response NS CEO Alan Shaw said his company will hold safety briefings, and work to improve its safety culture.

One of those moves was the announcement earlier this week of a six-point program to upgrade wayside defect detectors.

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: