|ONLINE VERSION||VOLUME 106 - NUMBER 12 - DECEMBER 1997|
|BMWE Continues The Fight for Safety|
|Safety education programs conducted by the BMWE Department of
Education and Safety continue to be an important part of the Brotherhood's multi-faceted
approach to improving rail safety.
Among the BMWE's most successful safety education program is the Hazardous Materials Training Program (HAZMAT). BMWE has been conducting hazmat training for its members since 1991 in a cooperative arrangement with the George Meany Center for Labor Studies and seven other rail unions. This cooperative educational program is funded by a federal grant from the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The Program has trained over 3,000 rail workers, including 898 BMWE members, at the first responder level addressing the requirements of OSHA 1910.120 - Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response. An additional 600 rail workers, including 250 from BMWE, have successfully completed 32 hours of Operations Level training.
The purpose of the HAZMAT Training Program is to provide rail union members with the resources and information necessary to protect themselves and their crew from exposure to hazardous materials. "An unintentional release of hazardous material can occur anytime or anywhere these commodities are loaded, handled, stored or transported," said Director of Safety, Rick Inclima. "Our members must be able to protect their health and safety in the event of a hazmat release in rail transportation. The HAZMAT Training Program is designed to do just that."
There were over 1.9 million carloads of hazardous materials transported by rail in 1996, 30 percent more than transported by rail in 1990. Between 1991 and 1996 there were 189 accident-related HAZMAT releases in train accidents on our nation's railroads. Additionally, statistics show that there are over 1,000 non-accident related releases of hazardous materials on the railroads each year. Many rail workers may also face chemical exposure from day-to-day contact with hazardous substances they come in contact with in the performance of their duties.
"The HAZMAT Training program is the union's answer to the risks associated with transporting hazardous materials by rail," said President Fleming. "Our program is designed to provide BMWE members with the informational resources and confidence necessary to protect themselves and properly react to a hazardous materials emergency."
One need only look at the daily news to see that rail emergencies involving hazardous materials occur at a frequently alarming basis. A February 1, 1996 BNSF derailment at Cajon Pass in California is a frightening reminder of the type of hazardous materials emergency which can occur in rail transportation. In that accident, five cars containing hazardous materials were involved in a fire which engulfed the train and surrounding area. Two train crew members were killed in the derailment and one other crew member was seriously injured.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the cause of the accident and the railroad's response. Among other findings, NTSB concluded that both the railroad's superintendent of field operations and the chief environmental officer exercised poor judgment in their assessment and handling of the butyl acrylate tank car. "The NTSB report only reinforces our belief that it is absolutely imperative to worker and public safety that rail employees have the information, skills, and training necessary to protect themselves and properly react to emergency releases of hazardous materials in rail transportation," said President Fleming.
Several BMWE members who worked to restore service after the Cajon Pass derailment recognized the importance of the union's Hazmat Training Program. "We were able to work confidently in a potentially dangerous situation because we understood our role in the response and the role of the incident commander," said one unidentified BMWE member. "Without our union hazmat training, we would have been less prepared to understand and mitigate the risks and hazards associated with working in such a potentially hostile environment."
Forty (40) BMWE members attended the advanced Operations Level HAZMAT training held in four separate sessions this past summer at the George Meany Center for Labor Studies in Silver Spring, Maryland. Due to the dangers inherent to BMWE work and a strong involvement in the program by the Brotherhood's Safety and Education Director, BMWE has had the most participants among all the rail unions since the program's inception.
During the typical four-day Operations Level training course, participants learn where and how to find information about the health and environmental effects of hazardous materials, how to protect themselves and their crew from exposure, and how to effectively initiate emergency response procedures. Students are taught modules on toxicology, incompatible chemicals and their reaction, hazard avoidance and recognition, placard and marking identification, and the use and limitations of chemically protective gear and equipment.
The course provides an overview of both the Department of Transportation's Hazardous Materials Regulations and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's Hazardous Waste Worker and Emergency Response regulations. There is also a union action module conducted by BMWE Director of Education and Safety Rick Inclima for all rail union participants on the final day of the program.
A highlight of the four-day training is a simulated hazmat response in fully encapsulated chemical protective gear. Participants are given a railroad hazmat accident scenario and they use their training to determine what level of protection is required and what types of tools they need to respond safely and effectively. Environmental monitoring, including the sampling of air and soil for contaminants, is all part of the drill. After participants research the dangers associated with the simulated release, they don the appropriate chemical protective gear, including self-contained breathing apparatus, and respond to the simulated emergency. Participants undergo field decontamination procedures prior to removing their gear. The simulation is video-taped and critiqued by the group as part of the learning process. "This is some of the best and most realistic training I have ever received" said BMWE member B.J. Greigo, now himself an assistant peer instructor in the program. "It really makes you understand how intricate a proper response is and how important it is to have good training and accurate information," said Greigo.
BMWE hopes to continue to provide members with access to the HAZMAT Training Program. "The key to the viability of this program is the availability of federal training funds from NIEHS. Without the training grant funds, we simply would not be able to provide this urgently-needed safety and health training," stated Fleming. "There's no doubt that this program has helped save the lives and health of our members and has provided our forces with the skills necessary to recognize and assess releases, or potential releases, of hazardous materials. These skills are necessary to protect workers and the public and can keep a small spill from turning into a major hazmat incident" said Fleming.
BMWE anticipates conducting four week-long programs at the George Meany Center during the summer of 1998. Recruitment for the program is coordinated through the BMWE Department of Education and Safety based, in part, upon recommendations of the General Chairmen. Members wishing to be considered for one of the limited number of slots in the upcoming summer sessions should notify their General Chairman. In March of each year, the Department of Education and Safety solicits participant recommendations from General Chairmen and other officers and activists.
"We try our best to identify those members who are active locally or regionally to improve the safety and health conditions under which our members work," said Inclima. "Unfortunately, we can't accommodate the large number of members who express an interest in attending. However, we try to be fair and objective in the selection process and we strongly encourage all interested members to apply. While the number of interested members far surpasses the number of slots available to BMWE, everyone has an equal chance of being selected," Inclima said.
Participants in the program are provided with round-trip travel arrangements, room and board, and a daily stipend. Members are encouraged to keep an eye on future issues of the BMWE JOURNAL for further information regarding the application process and dates and locations for the 1998 hazmat training season.
The Department of Education and Safety has also been extremely active in the regulatory arena to improve safety conditions for BMWE members. In addition to conducting educational seminars on federal safety rules such as the recently promulgated Roadway Worker Protection regulations, the Department has been very active in the process of negotiated rule-making under the auspices of the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC). RSAC is an advisory committee comprised of industry, labor, equipment manufacturers, and government representatives including the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).
BMWE has recently concluded negotiated rule-making to revise and amend both the Track Safety Standards under 49 CFR part 213 and the Railroad Communications Standard under 49 CFR part 220. Another pending federal rule close to finalization is the Part 240 Locomotive Engineer Certification regulations. BMWE became involved in the Part 240 regulations because the committee was tasked with addressing the question of whether BMWE equipment operators should be covered under Part 240.
We have also been active participants on the RSAC committees tasked with addressing use of an emergent technology, known as Gage Restraint Measurement System (GRMS), for measuring track strength, and a M/W equipment task force charged with developing minimum health and safety standards of rail mounted M/W equipment. In early November, BMWE participated in the first committee meeting of the Positive Train Separation (PTS) task group. That group has been tasked with exploring emergent technology for satellite based traffic control systems.
Future Journal articles will update you on these and other pending safety initiatives.
CACOSH Honors BMWE
Each fall at their annual dinner, the Chicago Area Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (CACOSH) has honored a union or individual for their contributions to the struggle for safe work.
"This year the CACOSH Board unanimously chose the BMWE to receive the 1997 Health and Safety Award," said Chairman Michael Ross, because of "its energetic, many-sided efforts to win better working conditions for its members. We have followed your struggles for the past two years and feel they set an example for others to follow."
Rick Inclima, BMWE Director of Education and Safety, accepted the award on behalf of the BMWE at the dinner in Chicago on November 14.
Roadway Worker Regulations Save Signalman's Life
Conrail Signal Maintainer Brad Cushman is thankful for the recent implementation of Roadway Worker Protection Regulations (RWPR). On October 28, 1996, Brother Cushman became living proof that RWPR works.
This workday was coming to a conclusion like many other days when Cushman and his fellow Signal employees were installing signal cable just west of Greencastle, Indiana. "We were working in double main track territory, installing signal cable. We had just filled up the ditch and were resurfacing the area when we needed a little more time to surface the area where we had laid the cable," Cushman said.
"The dispatcher stated that we were to wait for an eastbound CSXT train and then we could have 15 minutes to perform our work. After the CSXT train passed us, I began surfacing the area with a backhoe. After a short period my watchman, Carl Waldon got very excited and signaled to me that there was a train approaching where I was working," Cushman stated.
A UP train had entered the work area and struck the backhoe that Cushman was working on. Brother Cushman was able to leap off the backhoe before the impact.
"You could have knocked me over with a feather after that train went by. I was in shock. I couldn't believe I was almost killed. If it had not been for my watchman, as provided for in the regulations, I know that I would not be alive today," Cushman said.
His wife Connie was extremely shook up by the incident. "At first I was just glad he was alive. However, when he explained in further detail about what happened, I couldn't believe I almost lost my husband. It brings tears to my eyes to just think about it. When I saw the pictures of the backhoe and learned that my husband was wearing hearing protection, I was amazed that my husband survived," Connie Cushman said.
When asked why he called President Dan Pickett to tell him of his incident, Brother Cushman replied, "I had just read about Union Pacific Railroad trying to undermine the Roadway Worker Protection Regulations and I want him to know that it saved my life. I could not believe what I was reading. For any railroad to try and weaken RWPR would be a shame. It saved my life."
"Even though I was injured when I jumped off the backhoe, I am still able to spend time with my four children Kyla, Kenny, Adam, and Bobbi. Since the accident I have had surgery on my neck to fuse two vertebrate and I may need additional surgery on my back because of the two discs that I damaged in the fall. But I'm alive."
Reprinted from The Signalman's Journal October 1997.