August 10, 2023

Settlement Reached for East Palestine Derailment Site

Norfolk Southern has entered into a settlement agreement with the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Teamster’s Railway Union regarding the February 2023 derailment of a train near East Palestine, Ohio. The derailment led to the burning of hazardous chemicals, including vinyl chloride, benzene, and isobutylene, and the evacuation of 2,000 residents. Concerned about the risk of explosion, responders initiated a controlled venting and burning of more than 115,500 gallons of vinyl chloride, which led to concerns about potential health effects reported by residents and responders.

The settlement requires Norfolk Southern to implement a medical surveillance program for affected employees who worked at the derailment site, provide 40 hours of training on hazardous waste operations and emergency response to union employees, create a training program on lessons learned from the derailment, and pay OSHA fines for four safety and health violations.

“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 Howard Eberts, director of the OSHA area office in Cleveland. “We are pleased by the collaborative safety and health efforts of Norfolk Southern Corp., Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, and contractors from the clean-up site who have been working together on this site remediation.”

The OSHA fines amount to more than $49,000 in penalties to Norfolk Southern. The agency cited (PDF) the company for deficiencies related to emergency response planning as well as not requiring cleanup workers to wear chemical resistant footwear, allowing employees to pour cement on potentially contaminated soil without wearing respirators, and not training workers about hazardous chemicals. The citations concerned work conducted the day after the derailment. According to DOL, Norfolk Southern immediately abated the hazards.

More information is available from a DOL news release.