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Norfolk Southern workforce grows sick at derailment site

Norfolk Southern
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Norfolk SouthernA toxic chemical leaked after a Norfolk Southern accident in East Palestine, Ohio, roughly a month ago.

The corporation and government have been working to fix the issue for weeks.

Residents in surrounding areas were forced to flee, but eventually returned claiming health concerns.

Workers at the scene of the Norfolk Southern accident are allegedly becoming gravely ill.

The news

Twelve labor leaders met with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Federal Railroad Administration Administrator Amit Bose in Washington, DC on Wednesday.

They assembled to talk about the catastrophe, its aftermath, and the necessity for immediate safety precautions.

Mike Baldwin, president of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, stated:

“My hope is the stakeholders in this industry can work towards the same goals related to safety when transporting hazardous materials by rail.”

“Today’s meeting is an opportunity for labor to share what our members are seeing and dealing with day to day.”

“The railroaders labor represents are the employees who make it safe and they must have the tools to do so.”

Buttigieg intends to meet with unions again, according to Jeremy Ferguson, president of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers.

“This was a good start,” he said. “It’s important these safety issues are addressed. No one wants another East Palestine.”

“The safety discussion of employees must be addressed. The running of these long trains was a point of discussion as well.”

The letter

The meetings are in response to a letter filed to the Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration on Wednesday by union leaders alleging that rail personnel became ill at the site of the Norfolk Southern catastrophe.

The American Rail System Federation of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters addressed it to the following individuals:

  • Pete Buttigieg
  • Amit Bose
  • East Palestine Mayor Trent Conaway
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine

According to the letter, Norfolk Southern train crew members who have worked on or are now working on cleaning are experiencing headaches and nausea.

Due to his symptoms, one worker apparently requested a transfer, but his management did not reply, and he was left to work at the crash site.

According to the letter, workers were not provided with the appropriate personal protective equipment:

  • Respirators
  • Eye protection
  • Protective clothing

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Furthermore, according to union organizers, 35 to 40 personnel were operating on the train without the proper breathing gear, coverups, boots, or rubber gloves.

They were only wearing paper and N95 masks.

A Norfolk Southern official afterwards reported that the company responded quickly at the tragedy area to coordinate their response.

The group collaborated with hazardous material specialists to ensure that the location was accessible and that appropriate PPE was used.

Safety act

Following the Norfolk Southern disaster, a bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to prevent railway mishaps.

The Railway Safety Act of 2023 imposes stringent security requirements for trains transporting dangerous chemicals.

It will also increase the frequency with which railway vehicles are evaluated.

The Act also requires qualified two-person crews on trains transporting hazardous chemicals and levies fines for noncompliance.

Following the Norfolk Southern derailment, Republican and Democratic senators pressed Biden administration officials to prioritize resolving the problem.

Some Democrats also slammed former President Donald Trump for eliminating railway safety rules while he was still in office.

Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, delivered the following statement:

“It shouldn’t take a massive railroad disaster for elected officials to put partisanship aside and work together for the people we serve – not corporations like Norfolk Southern.”

Brown will propose the bill alongside Ohio Republican Senator JD Vance.

The following personalities also support the law:

  • Bob Casey, D-Pa.
  • John Fetterman, D-Pa.
  • Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
  • Josh Hawley, R-Mo.

“Through this legislation, Congress has a real opportunity to ensure that what happened in East Palestine will never happen again,” said Vance.

“We owe every American the peace of mind that their community is protected from a catastrophe of this kind.”

Mike Baldwin also offered his backing for the legislation, saying:

“If this legislation is adopted, the [Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen] supports those efforts and looks forward to working collaboratively on common sense regulations that continue to improve safety.”

Image source: CNBC