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Groups unite to promote rail safety in wake of East Palestine, Ohio, derailment

The Labor Department, Norfolk Southern and the Teamsters representing rail workers have entered an agreement to improve safety at the site of a February train derailment in East Palestine Ohio. File Photo courtesy of Ohio National Guard/Twitter
The Labor Department, Norfolk Southern and the Teamsters representing rail workers have entered an agreement to improve safety at the site of a February train derailment in East Palestine Ohio. File Photo courtesy of Ohio National Guard/Twitter

Aug. 9 (UPI) -- Government, business and labor groups united Wednesday to improve rail safety at the site of a February train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Norfolk Southern Corp. and the Brotherhood of Maintenace of Way Employees Division-International Brotherhood of Teamsters, have entered into an agreement to improve safety conditions at the site.

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The February 2 train derailment resulted in a 39-railcar pileup and released hazardous chemicals into the environment.

OSHA inspectors issued four citations against Norfolk Southern on August 2 for safety violations, including not developing a clear emergency response plan, failing to require protective footwear for workers in the contaminated area, failing to train workers regarding hazardous chemicals, and letting employees pour concrete on contaminated soil without protection.

"OSHA will continue to work closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and other federal, state and local officials to protect workers' safety and health as clean-up operations continue," the Department of Labor said in a press release Wednesday.

The agreement will require Norfolk Southern to implement a medical surveillance program for workers who have been exposed to the area of the derailment, to provide 40 hours of Hazardous Waste Operations training to union employees and to pay OSHA penalties related to four specific safety violations and to create a training program to incorporating lessons from the derailment.

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"OSHA's investigations included personal and area air samplings for workers involved in site and water cleanup, including Norfolk Southern employees installing new railroad track at the site," the Labor Department said.

"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," said Area Office Director of OSHA Howard Eberts.

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