The owners of a Nebraska railcar cleaning company pleaded guilty to hiding information from OSHA during the agency’s investigation into a fatal explosion and for violating worker safety standards and environmental regulations.
Steven Braithwaite, president and owner of Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services LLC (NRCS), and Adam Braithwaite, the company’s vice president and co-owner, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and submitting false documents to OSHA.
Steven Braithwaite is facing a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $750,000 fine.
Adam Braithwaite is looking at a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1.25 million fine.
NRCS is facing a maximum penalty of five years’ probation and a $9.5 million fine.
All of the financial penalties are either for the listed monetary amount or twice the profit caused by the offense, whichever is greater, according to a Department of Justice news release.
Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 25.
Covered up lack of safety
NRCS was a railcar cleaning service company, and its services extended to rail tanker cars, which often involved sending employees inside the tanks to scrape and remove residual gasoline, ethanol, petroleum by-products, pesticides, herbicides and food-grade products.
On April 14, 2015, two NRCS workers were sent into a tanker car containing flammable residue and were killed when the contents of the car ignited and exploded while they were inside cleaning.
Following an investigation by OSHA, the company was accused of failing to implement worker safety standards and covering that fact up during the inspection.
Further, the NRCS was accused of mishandling the hazardous waste it removed from tanker cars during the cleaning process.
Stephen Braithwaite was responsible for all phases of the business. He pleaded guilty to two counts of violating worker safety standards resulting in the two workers’ deaths and knowingly endangering others by violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Adam Braithwaite handled both environmental and worker safety issues at NRCS. He pleaded guilty to two counts of violating worker safety standards that resulted in the two workers’ deaths, two counts of falsification of records in a federal investigation, and committing perjury.
The company pleaded guilty to all 21 of the counts it was charged with in the indictment.