A proposed rule requiring emergency escape breathing PPE for railroad employees on freight trains was commended March 30 by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The NTSB previously recommended providing emergency escape breathing apparatuses for crew members on freight trains carrying hazardous materials following a fatal 2005 rail incident.
This Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rule would ensure freight train crews have the necessary PPE to prevent inhaling poisonous toxins in the event of a crash or other incident resulting in an accidental release.
Recommendation issued following fatal chlorine gas release
The recommendation was made to the FRA following an NTSB investigation into the Jan. 6, 2005, collision of a northbound Norfolk Southern Railway Company freight train with an unoccupied parked Norfolk Southern freight train in Graniteville, South Carolina.
One of three chlorine tank cars breached, releasing deadly chlorine gas which killed the train engineer and eight other people who worked or lived near the site of the collision. Hundreds of other people were hospitalized in the incident and more than 5,000 people were evacuated from within a mile of the collision for several days.
Proposed rulemaking in 2010, no rule issued
In 2008, Congress ordered the FRA to require railroads to provide crews with emergency breathing equipment. A notice of proposed rulemaking was issued in 2010, but no rule was ever issued. The NTSB closed its recommendation in 2017, calling the FRA’s lack of action an “unacceptable response.”
NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy commended the FRA’s new proposed rule, calling the renewed effort “a significant step toward meeting this lifesaving NTSB recommendation and we hope the rulemaking process moves swiftly.”