B   M   W   E
Focus On Safety
BMWE's Safety Efforts Paying Dividends
Injured Employee's Right to Harassment-free Medical Treatment
HAZMAT Training Program
2001 Hazardous Materials Training Program Schedule
BNSF Machinist Earns Hammond Award
October 20 -- Australian Rail Union Representatives Meet With BMWE
October 25 — FRA Administrator Visits Tie Gang
Toxic Wood Preservatives
Ergonomics Standard Issued
$50 Million Award Upheld vs. CSX Railroad

BMWE's Safety Efforts Paying Dividends

Across the nation, BMWE members and officers are working diligently to improve safety. These efforts are being conducted in a variety of forums including active participation in the Federal Railroad Administration's Safety Assurance and Compliance Program (SACP), the Rail Safety Advisory Committee (RSAC), and through a number of negotiated safety programs. Regardless of the forum, BMWE members and officers across the country are pulling together to improve safety and be our brothers' keeper. Both in safety and solidarity, an injury to one is an injury to all.

On the national level, BMWE's Department of Safety and Education has been extremely active in the regulatory arena. Most all new regulations issued by FRA are the product of negotiated rulemaking under RSAC procedures. RSAC is a federal committee established to provide advice and consensus-based recommendations to FRA on railroad safety matters. The committee consists of 48 individual representatives, drawn from 27 organizations representing various railroad industry perspectives. While the majority of RSAC representatives come from railroad labor and railroad management, the committee also includes representatives from state and federal regulatory agencies, industry suppliers and contractors, and other stakeholders.

BMWE President Mac A. Fleming, left, and BMWE Director of Safety and Education Rick Inclima, right, welcome BMWE New Mexico State Legislative Director Chris Martinez who visited a meeting of the full RSAC on September 14. Martinez was in Washington, DC to lobby Congressmen on the railroad retirement issue.

Active RSAC tasks which the BMWE is currently engaged in include Positive Train Control (PTC) technologies, redefining Accident/Incident reporting thresholds under Part 225 regulations, and revisions to the Blue Signal Protection of Workmen under Part 218 regulations.
The PTC sub-committee is tasked with reviewing the implications and opportunities of micro- processor and communications-based technologies in the next generation of train control systems. As agreed to by the RSAC, PTC systems must address, at a minimum, the following "core features": 1) prevent train to train collisions [positive train separation]; 2) enforce speed restrictions including civil engineering restrictions [curves, bridges, etc.] and temporary slow orders; and 3) protect roadway workers and their equipment operating under specific authorities. As envisioned, PTC systems will automatically enforce train stops and train over-speed conditions should the engineer become incapacitated or otherwise exceed speed or authority limits.

The Accident/Incident reporting group is tasked with developing a uniform mechanism for determining the monetary value of train accidents, and therefore, redefining and clarifying the reportability threshold under Part 225 regulations. Currently, train accidents are not reportable to FRA unless the total damage to track, equipment, and structures exceeds $6,600.00. The method for determining whether the monetary threshold has been exceeded is currently based upon labor costs and depreciated cost of track and equipment.

The problem with the current method is that damages from two different accidents of near equal consequences (i.e., two cars destroyed, 25 feet of track replaced) could vary widely, and one accident might be reportable to the FRA while the other is not. Railroads have been known to repair damaged track and equipment with "used" or "reconditioned" parts in order to keep train accidents and derailment costs below the monetary threshold, and therefore non-reportable. The Accident/Incident Committee is working to develop uniform flat-rate monetary values for damaged track components, bridges, signal components, and rolling stock. Uniform values for determining the monetary threshold will improve the consistency of train accident reporting and provide a more accurate picture of each carrier's train accident rate.

The Blue Signal Protection of Workmen (Blue Flag) rule is essential for the protection of employees engaged in the inspection, testing, repair, and servicing of rolling stock. There are also provisions within the Blue Flag regulations dealing with the protection of occupied camp cars. While the protection of occupied camp cars is paramount to BMWE, newly emerging issues relative to radio activated switches and derails may also impact BMWE members. BMWE participation in this rulemaking will assure that any new rules governing remote or radio controlled switches and derails will not adversely impact or diminish roadway worker protection rules currently in effect to protect roadway workers and their equipment.

Proposed Standards for Roadway Maintenance Machines

Over the last three plus years, BMWE representatives have been working diligently to reach consensus recommendations for minimum standards applicable to roadway maintenance machines (RMM) and hi-rail vehicles. The full RSAC committee recently voted to accept the proposed rule package and it has been forwarded to the FRA Administrator for rule promulgation.

The proposed rule will require all "new" equipment to meet minimum standards and will also require "existing" equipment to be retrofitted with certain safety items. The proposed rule includes a requirement for environmental control and protection systems for certain dust generating equipment including new ballast regulators, tampers, mechanical brooms, rotary scarifiers, and under-cutters.

These dust generating machines will be required under the proposed rules to be equipped with enclosed cabs with operative heating systems, operative air conditioning systems, and operative positive-pressurized ventilation systems. "These engineering controls applicable to dust generating equipment have been a long time coming and will go a long way in reducing operator exposure to dangerous air contaminants including silica dust," said BMWE President Mac A. Fleming.

The proposed rules will also require new equipment to have headlights, brake lights, brakes, intermittent or oscillating beacon lights, safety glass, powered wipers, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, turntable securement devices, an operator's seat, horn, automatic change of direction alarms, and flagging kits. The proposed rule also contains language regarding the maintenance of overhead covers to protect against rain and sun, the maintenance of existing heaters, maintenance of floors, decks, stairs, and ladders, and a requirement that workers transported on equipment be provided a safe and secure position including protection from moving machine parts. The proposed rule also contains an employee challenge procedure and a schedule of repair to assure that defective equipment is repaired or replaced on a timely basis.

"These rules, once promulgated, will provide tremendous safety benefits to our members who work on or around this equipment. Maintenance of way equipment will finally be subject to minimum safety standards that our members need and deserve," Fleming said. "If all goes well, the rule should become law sometime next year but we are not out of the woods yet, " he said because "anything can happen with the changes occurring in Washington. We must remain ever vigilant to assure that the impediments to progress for BMWE members do not have their way. Our top priority is to see these rules become law and bring maintenance of way equipment into the light of the 21st century."

Preservation of BMWE Work Secured in Part 240 Regulations

On January 7, 2000, the final rule amendments to Part 240, Qualification and Certification of Locomotive Engineers became effective nationwide. These amendments were the result of over two years of effort under RSAC rulemaking procedures. BMWE was an active participant in this rulemaking because among the major issues before the committee was the application of Part 240 to certain "service vehicles." Specifically at issue was whether operators of specialized maintenance of way equipment and dual-purpose vehicles (as defined) would be required to be certified locomotive engineers under Part 240.

BMWE prevailed in its argument that locomotive engineer certification was not applicable to operators of specialized maintenance of way equipment, or to dual-purpose vehicles operating in conjunction with maintenance of way functions. Under the final rule, specialized maintenance of way equipment, i.e., MofW equipment that does not have the capability to move railroad rolling stock, will remain within the purview of qualified maintenance of way operators. The operation of duel-purpose vehicles, i.e., "service vehicles" that can function as roadway maintenance machines and can also be used as a substitute for traditional locomotives by virtue of their capability to move railroad rolling stock, will be contingent upon the type work being performed.
The final rule requires a certified locomotive engineer to operate a dual purpose vehicle when it is being used as a locomotive in service unrelated to roadway maintenance work. However, the rule permits the operation of dual-purpose vehicles by persons other than certified locomotive engineers, i.e., qualified maintenance of way operators, when the vehicle is being used in roadway maintenance service, including traveling to and from the work site.

Such non-240 certified operations must: 1) be conducted in conjunction with roadway maintenance and related functions; 2) move under operating rule authority designated for maintenance of way operations, and; 3) be operated by an individual trained and qualified in accordance with the roadway worker regulations. The amended final rule preserves work historically performed by BMWE without placing BMWE operators under the additional burden of 240 certification or requiring work to flow to another craft.

Safety Assurance and Compliance Program (SACP)

Locally, many BMWE officers and representatives are working hard to improve safety and quality of work life issues through the Safety Assurance and Compliance Program (SACP). Initially begun in 1994, SACP represents FRA's innovative approach to addressing safety issues outside the realm of federal regulation. SACP provides a forum for rail labor, rail management, and FRA to discuss and resolve local and railroad specific safety and quality of life issues collaboratively.

Through the SACP process, BMWE officers and representatives have been working to resolve issues such as fatigue, manpower, training, workplace culture, management accountability, disciplinary policies, and other issues affecting safety and quality of work life. SACP committees are currently active on Amtrak, Burlington Northern Sante Fe, CSX, Illinois Central, Kansas City Southern, Norfolk Southern, Union Pacific, and other carriers. However, not all properties are achieving similar levels of success due primarily to deeply entrenched railroad cultural barriers which have yet to be overcome on several major properties.

Outside the RSAC and SACP processes, BMWE's safety department is actively involved in efforts to change the criteria currently used to determine the winner of the Harriman Award. Currently, the Harriman Award is awarded to the railroad with the best casualty (injury and occupational illness) rate per data reported to FRA. However, the casualty rate does not reflect the severity of injury nor does it differentiate between a stitch in the finger and a death.

Under the current scheme, both a stitched finger and a death each count as an "incident" and are viewed equally without regard to severity. Therefore, under the current criteria, a railroad that had 10 fatalities would win the award over a railroad that had 11 finger cut injuries that required sutures or prescription medication. BMWE has proposed a "severity index" to be applied to certain categories of injuries in order to bring a semblance of fairness and meaning to the Harriman Award for the "safest" railroad. Should this issue ever be resolved, we will report the outcome in a future JOURNAL article.

The Department of Safety and Education is also working closely with FRA to eliminate the practice of carrier representatives providing emergency care physicians with instructions meant to influence or manipulate medical treatment for the purpose of rendering an injury non-reportable to FRA. In response to BMWE complaints, FRA has advised several major carriers to cease and desist the use of "medical help/attending physician" cards, and other activities calculated to influence the course of medical treatment for the purpose of minimizing reportability under FRA regulations. Should any injured member have reason to believe that carrier representatives are attempting to influence a physician's medical determinations or course of treatment, such should be brought to the attention of their general chairman immediately.

BMWE continues to explore all avenues at its disposal to improve and promote safety nationwide. While the processes are time consuming and often difficult, BMWE is committed to advancing the safety needs of its members and will continue to work towards fulfilling our goals of zero fatalities, increased work opportunities, and quality of life improvements for BMWE members nationwide.

Injured Employee's Right to Harassment-free Medical Treatment

If you sustain a work related injury on the railroad you have a right to prompt professional medical treatment for your injury. It is a violation of federal law for the company or any of its agents to engage in any form of intimidation or harassment of any person which is calculated to discourage or prevent such person from receiving proper medical treatment or from reporting such accident, incident, injury or illness. Medical treatment is defined under FRA's Railroad Accident/Incident Reporting regulations (49 CFR Part 225) as " any medical care or treatment beyond first aid."

Each railroad is required by law to develop a written Internal Control Plan declaring the railroad's commitment to complete and accurate reporting of all accidents, incidents, injuries, and occupational illnesses arising from the operation of the railroad. Railroads must issue a policy statement committing to the principle, in absolute terms, that harassment or intimidation of any person which is calculated to discourage or prevent such person from receiving proper medical treatment or from reporting such accident, incident, injury, or illness will not be permitted or tolerated. The policy statement must also stipulate that a violation of the harassment and intimidation policy will result in some stated disciplinary action against any employee, supervisor, manager, or officer of the railroad committing such harassment or intimidation.

In accordance with the mandatory elements of the Internal Control Plan, each railroad is required to disseminate its written policy statement regarding harassment and intimidation to all employees, supervisory personnel, and management officials. The policy statement must include specific procedures for the filing and processing of complaints from any person alleging a violation of the policy statement. The railroad must also develop procedures within their Internal Control Plan to impose the appropriate prescribed disciplinary actions against any employee, supervisor, manager, or officer of the railroad found to have violated the policy.

The question often arises as to what constitutes harassment and intimidation which is calculated to discourage or prevent proper medical treatment or reporting? While the Federal Railroad Administration would ultimately have the final say based upon the circumstances involved in each individual case, the following are examples of what would likely be considered harassment and intimidation under Part 225:

Threat of discipline or dismissal for reporting an injury.
Request by company agent for injured employee to claim injury occurred off-duty and away from railroad property.
A company official attempting to influence the attending physician's diagnosis and treatment, i.e., asking the doctor not to write a prescription, not to place an immobilizing splint or cast, not to use sutures to close a wound, or not to issue an order for restricted duty or time off duty.
A company official attempting to influence the attending physician's diagnosis and treatment through delivery of a "medical help card" suggesting the doctor should avoid prescribing treatment or work restrictions which would render the injury FRA reportable.
A request by a company official that an injured employee refuse an attending physician's recommended treatment in order to keep the injury non-reportable to FRA.

These are just a few examples of circumstances which would likely constitute harassment and intimidation. There are many other scenarios which could conceivably be considered violations as well.

While being treated or examined, an injured employee has the right to insist on a degree of privacy and a preservation of doctor/patient confidentiality. This means that an injured employee has the right to speak with and ask/answer questions of the attending physician in private, without a supervisor or other company agent present. An injured employee does not have to allow a company agent or official to be present during an examination or while being administered treatment for an injury. An injured employee has every right to insist that the company agent/official leave the examination room or treatment area. Failure of a company agent/officer to leave the examination room upon request of an injured employee would violate the injured employee's right to confidentiality and may also constitute harassment and intimidation under FRA regulations.

Incidents of harassment or intimidation calculated to discourage or prevent an injured employee from receiving proper medical treatment or from reporting such accident, incident, injury, or illness should be reported to your general chairman immediately. A complaint should then be filed in accordance with the procedures outlined in the company's mandatory policy statement addressing harassment and intimidation. Under federal law, the railroad must provide "whistle blower" protection to any persons subject to the policy statement, and such "whistle blower" protection policy is required by law to be disclosed to all railroad employees, supervisors and management officials.

Failure of the company to provide each railroad employee with its policy statement, complaint procedures, and a disclosure of its "whistle blower" protection policy would constitute a violation of FRA regulations. Any violation of these procedural requirements, or any incidents of harassment and intimidation calculated to discourage or prevent proper medical treatment or accident/injury reporting, should be brought to the attention of your general chairman immediately.

HAZMAT Training Program

Approximately 85 BMWE members were among the 175 rail union members who received advanced hazardous materials training through the George Meany Center for Labor Studies this past summer. Rail Labor's four-day, 32-hour training programs are funded by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and are conducted in cooperation with seven rail unions, the AFL-CIO, and the George Meany Center for Labor Studies.

"The Hazmat Training Program is one of the most important and successful safety education programs conducted by BMWE," said President Fleming. "Our program is designed to provide rail union members with the informational resources, skills, and confidence necessary to protect themselves and properly react in a hazardous materials emergency. This vital information and comprehensive training is not otherwise readily available to our membership and is certainly not being provided to them by the railroads," Fleming said.

The 32-hour hazmat course addresses both the training objectives of the U.S. Department of Transportation's hazardous materials regulations and the training objectives of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) hazardous materials training for emergency responders at the First Responder and Operations Level. Since 1991, over 4,000 rail union members have attended the 32-hour course.

Hands on training reinforces the need to know the strengths and weaknesses of personal protective clothing and equipment.

BMWE Director of Education and Safety, Rick Inclima stated, "an unintentional release of hazardous material can occur anytime or anywhere these commodities are loaded, handled, stored, or transported. Therefore, our members must have access to the skills and resources necessary to protect their health and safety in the event of a hazardous materials release in rail transportation. The union's Hazmat Training Program is designed to provide that access for the protection of our members."

Due to the dangers inherent to BMWE work, including the potential for BMWE exposure at derailment sites and along the right-of-way, the BMWE has been allocated the greatest number of training slots among the rail unions. BMWE's Department of Education and Safety also plays a significant role in planning the program's curriculum and delivering the training.

BMWE members undergo mock decontamination procedures as part of HAZMAT simulation.

During the typical four-day training course, participants learn how to research information regarding the health, safety, and environmental effects of hazardous materials, how to protect themselves and their crew from exposure, and how to effectively initiate emergency response procedures. The program also includes instructional modules in toxicology, incompatible chemicals and their reaction, confined space entry, hazard recognition and avoidance, DOT placard and marking requirements, and the use and limitations of personal protective equipment, including respirators and chemical protective gear and equipment. On the final day of the program there is a union strategies and action module conducted for all participants by Inclima.

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 are required to use their training and resources to identify the hazards and determine what level of protection is necessary to respond safely and effectively. Environmental monitoring, including the sampling of air and soil for contaminants, is all part of the drill.

Member undergoing decontamination procedure.

After assessing the risks presented in the simulation, participants don the appropriate chemical protective gear, including self-contained breathing apparatus, and respond to the simulated emergency. The participants then undergo field decontamination procedures prior to the removal of their personal protective equipment. The simulation is video-taped and critiqued by the participants and instructors as part of the learning process.

"We try very hard to make this training as realistic and fulfilling an experience as possible," says Inclima. "On any given day, our members face the potential of being confronted with life-and- death decisions regarding hazardous materials. Therefore, we try to provide as much information and the highest quality training humanly possible."

Members demonstrate technique for overpacking leaking 55 gallon drum.

In 1999, there were 716 reportable train accidents involving consists transporting hazardous material on U.S. railroads. These accidents resulted in 76 hazmat car releases, 1,010 damaged hazmat cars, and the evacuation of 996 people. Additionally, statistics show that there are over 1,000 non-accident related releases of hazardous materials on the railroads each year.

"These statistics point to the dangers associated with transporting hazardous material and to the potential risks facing rail workers and the general public," President Fleming said. "Many rail workers also face the danger of exposure to hazardous materials contacted daily in the performance of their duties. The potential danger faced by BMWE members from both emergency releases of hazardous materials and day-to-day exposure to hazardous substances such as creosote, silica dust, solvents, epoxy resins, lead, and other products makes this program essential to the safety and health of our members."

Members use newly acquired skills to patch leaking pipeline.

Funds for the Rail Workers' Hazardous Materials Training Program are provided by a grant from the federal government. Training funds are allocated on a five-year basis, provided the program continues to meet its training and budgetary goals. The last five-year grant expired September 2000 and BMWE has just learned that the program will be refunded for another five-year term running through September 2005. The new grant also includes funding for the continued development of an Internet based on-line training program. It is hoped that the on-line program will be available to unionized railroad workers in 2001.

The newly awarded federal training grant was co-written by Program Director Brenda Cantrell and BMWE Director of Education and Safety Rick Inclima. NIEHS reviewers rated the program's recently submitted competitive grant application "excellent" and they gave it the highest score rating in the rail program's 10-year history. NIEHS funding for the program will be approximately $550,000.00 per year in each of the next five years.

"The key to the viability of this program is continued funding from NIEHS. Without the training grant funds, we simply would not be able to provide this urgently-needed safety and health training," said President Fleming. "There's no doubt that this program helps save lives and protects the health of our members. It provides our forces with the skills necessary to recognize and assess releases, or potential releases, of hazardous materials. These skills are absolutely necessary to protect workers and the public and can keep a small spill from turning into a major hazmat incident. I congratulate Sister Cantrell and Brother Inclima for their substantial efforts in successfully securing additional funds for continuation of this program. The five-year grant applications to NIEHS are highly competitive and the program's refunding in this competitive environment is truly an accomplishment. These training funds will go a long way in improving the safety and health of BMWE members and other rail workers nationwide."

During the upcoming September 2000 - August 2001 program year, BMWE anticipates conducting at least four week-long programs at the George Meany Center in Silver Spring, MD., and two additional "field programs" in Cincinnati, OH and Los Angles, CA. The Silver Spring programs are open to members from throughout the U.S., while the "field programs" scheduled for Ohio and California will give preference to local participants within commuting distance to the training facility.

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 sessions should notify their General Chairman in writing as soon as possible. Applications may be obtained through your general chairman or can be downloaded from our web page at www.bmwe.org. Simply click on the "programs" link and locate the hazmat training information and application form.

"We try our best to identify those members who are active locally or regionally in improving 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 (BMWE is allocated 10 slots per session), everyone has an equal chance of being selected and all are encouraged to apply."

Participants in the program are provided with round-trip travel arrangements, room and board. In addition, participants who are unable to receive regular pay through the railroad to attend training will be eligible for a stipend of $107.00 per day for the four days of training, a total of $428.00. Due to the overwhelming volume of applicants, only those selected to attend will be notified and members are reminded that it is their responsibility to arrange time off to attend. Please see the 2001 training schedule published in this edition of the BMWE JOURNAL for further information. Members are also encouraged to keep an eye on future issues of the BMWE JOURNAL for additional information regarding the program and any additional dates and locations which may be scheduled for the 2001 hazmat training season.

2001 Hazardous Materials Training Program Schedule

The BMWE Department of Education and Safety, in cooperation with the George Meany Center for Labor Studies, is pleased to announce the scheduling of four 32-hour Hazmat Training Programs to be held during 2001 at the George Meany Center in Silver Spring, MD., and two "field programs" scheduled for Cincinnati, OH and Buena Park, CA. The programs are scheduled as follows:

February 27-March 1, 2001 (Buena Park, CA) *
March 19-22, 2001 (Cincinnati, OH) *
May 6-10, 2001 (Silver Spring, MD)
June 24-28, 2001 (Silver Spring, MD)
July 15-20, 2001 (Silver Spring, MD)
August 12-16, 2001 (Silver Spring, MD)

Participants selected to attend will be provided with transportation, room and board. In addition, participants who are unable to receive regular pay through the railroad to attend training will be eligible to receive a daily stipend of $107.00 per day for the four days of training (total 4-day stipend equals $428.00). Each successful applicant will be responsible for arranging time off duty to attend.

Members interested in applying for any one of these programs should advise their General Chairman in writing, and identify the program date(s) they would like to be considered for as soon as possible. Grand Lodge will facilitate participant selection in consultation with each General Chairman on a rotating basis. All interested members are encouraged to apply and each applicant will be given equal consideration in the selection process.

Application forms are available through the General Chairmen's office and can also be accessed through the "programs" section of BMWE's web-site at www.bmwe.org or by contacting the Department of Safety at 248-948-1010, ext. #624. Members selected to attend will be notified directly by Grand Lodge 4-6 weeks prior to the start of each session. Due to the large number of anticipated applicants, only those members selected to attend will be notified.

*Local participants within commuting distance to these "off-site" training locations will be given preference for these localized "field programs."

BNSF Machinist Earns Hammond Award

Gary H. Hughes, a machinist/safety assistant at Burlington Northern Santa Fe's diesel ship in Lincoln, Neb., has been named the winner of this year's Harold F. Hammond rail safety award.

Hughes is a 27-year employee of the railroad industry and a member of the International Association of Machinists.

In nominating Hughes for the Hammond Award, BNSF President and Chief Operating Officer Matt Rose, wrote, "Mr Hughes has demonstrated outstanding safety achievements throughout his railroad career that has spanned more than 20 years. His contributions and dedication to safety is the key to continuing and accelerating improvement at Burlington Northern Santa Fe."

Numerous examples of Mr. Hughes' commitment to safety were cited. He helped form the Lincoln Diesel Shop Safety Team and currently serves as its chairman. Before the team was formed in 1989, the Shop averaged 60 reportable injures annually. The Shop reported just six in 1999. Mr. Hughes has also developed procedures and equipment modifications that have reduced injuries in BNSF shops system-wide.

Six other railroad employees received Certificates of Commendation for their work in enhancing safety. They are:

Dale Brower, a carman with CSX Transportation in Grand Rapids, Mich.
James R. (Jay) Edwards, an engineer with Montana Rail Link in Laurel, Mont.
James W. Ewalt, a signal maintainer with I&M Rail Link in Mason City, Iowa;
John Kent, foreman general II with Union Pacific in Roseville, Calif.;
Thomas Thacker, a track supervisor with Norfolk Southern in Glendale, Ohio; and
Marian Shoup, a program development coordinator with Amtrak in Jacksonville, Fla.

Reprinted from Association of American Railroads' Train-It, Vol. VII, Number 4, May 25, 2000.

October 20 -- Australian Rail Union Representatives Meet With BMWE

Representatives of Australia's Rail, Tram and Bus Union met with BMWE Director of Education and Safety Rick Inclima in Washington, DC on October 20, 2000. The Australian unionists have been touring the United States and Europe to get a first hand look at automated detection car technologies such as track geometry cars, rail flaw detection cars, and gauge restraint measurement systems for possible use on their home territories. The Australians reached out to BMWE in an effort to learn how these technologies have been incorporated into U.S. maintenance of way operations and how it has impacted the BMWE workforce.

"While our meeting lasted only a few hours, it became readily apparent that our brothers from ‘down under' face the same safety and economic pressures that we face here in the U.S.," said Inclima. "It's amazing that while separated by half the world, our respective members face almost identical problems. Privatization, downsizing, and contracting are universal concerns facing rail workers worldwide."

Inclima discussed reasons why unions must be in a position to influence how new technology is implemented and he shared his experiences with technological innovations in MofW operations. The Australian unionists commented on how helpful BMWE's experiences are to their cause. BMWE and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union agreed to continue to share information and experiences for the betterment of maintenance of way workers in both nations.

October 25 — FRA Administrator Visits Tie Gang

Before sunrise on October 25, Federal Railroad Administrator Jolene Molitoris arrived at the job site of CSX System Production Tie Gang T-3, working near Charleston, West Virginia. Ms. Molitoris and CSX Vice President Thomas Schmidt participated in T-3's pre-dawn job briefing along with BMWE Director of Safety Rick Inclima, BMWE Allied Eastern Federation Vice Chairmen Randall Brassell and Len Buckley and BMWE/CSX Safety Liaison David Marquar.

Shortly after the gang began work, Administrator Molitoris and BMWE representatives toured the gang and spoke to many members regarding safety concerns and other job-related issues. BMWE members on Gang T-3 welcomed the Administrator and explained the work methods and procedures that have made Gang T-3 among the safest and most productive CSX tie gang system-wide. At several junctures during the tour, Ms. Molitoris was observed utilizing the tools of the maintenance of way trade as BMWE members coached her in their safe and proper use. Rick Inclima commented, "When have we ever seen an FRA Administrator down in the trenches with BMWE members? She gained my respect a long time ago, but today I know she also gained the respect of the members of gang T-3."

Following the gang tour, Ms. Molitoris accompanied BMWE and management representatives on a tour of the Barboursville Bridge Shop and the Barboursville Training School where she addressed a training class of track department new hires. From there, the group boarded CSX's track geometry car TGC-2 at Barboursville and tested to Charleston. The Administrator commented on the excellent quality of work performed by Gang T-3 and the excellent ride quality over track which was recently tied and surfaced by BMWE crews.

Toxic Wood Preservatives

Stories of families whose health has been damaged by highly toxic wood preservatives are told in the latest issue of Pesticides and You reported PR Newswire on October 5.

Wood preservatives, commonly used in pressure treated wood, utility poles and railroad ties, are among the most toxic chemicals known to humankind. They account for over 30% of all pesticides used in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency's review of the safety of wood preservatives, which includes pentachlorophenol (penta), creosote and chromated copper arsenate (CCA) has been stalled for three years under pressure from the wood preserving industry.

A new report issued by Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (NCAMP) details the accounts of families whose health has been harmed from wood preservatives, known to be the most toxic compounds used in the U.S. The stories reflect contamination and poisoning from wood preservatives in a community where wood is treated, around a cogeneration plant where treated wood is burned, from a deck that is built out of recycled utility poles, and through occupational exposure.

Each story cited reflects what Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP calls "the tragic result of EPA's failure to adequately regulate chemicals it determined years ago to warrant more stringent restrictions." EPA told Beyond Pesticides/NCAMP in 1997 that it was reevaluating the wood preservatives by the end of 1998, but has delayed any action to the end of 2001. In response, Greg Kidd, NCAMP's Science and Legal Policy Director, said, "EPA's failure to take action on wood preservatives constitutes an abuse of its authority, given what the agency knows about the hazardous nature of these chemicals."

The report specifically highlights five families in Alabama, Arkansas, Michigan, Montana and Washington. One story describes a young child who may lose his leg as a result of birth defects that have been tied to his father's exposure to penta. The known health effects of penta, CCA and creosote include birth defects, cancer, genetic mutations, impairment of the immune system and interference with hormone function.

Beyond Pesticides has published two reports on wood preservatives. The first, Poison Poles, follows the toxic trail of wood preservatives from cradle to grave. The second report, Pole Pollution, focuses on EPA's preliminary analysis of the risks associated with penta and the results of Beyond Pesticides' survey of utility companies. Both are available on the web at www.beyondpesticides.org.

Ergonomics Standard Issued

Hundreds of thousands of workers will be spared painful repetitive stress injuries under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's new ergonomics standard for American workplaces. Issued Nov. 13 after a decade of efforts by the business community and anti-worker members of Congress to derail it, the standard "is the most important worker safety action developed" in OSHA's history, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said.

OSHA estimates that 1.8 million workers a year report such work-related musculoskeletal disorders as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and back injuries — and more than 600,000 of those workers are forced to take time of from work to recover. The safety agency predicts the new standard will prevent 4.6 million such injuries in the first 10 years.

"Since OSHA's passage in 1970, the job fatality rate has been cut by 75 percent and job injury rates have been lowered by 39 percent," said AFL-CIO Safety and Health Director Peg Seminario. According to OSHA, the new rule will spare 460,000 workers painful injuries and save an average of $9.1 billion each year.

Business groups and their allies in Congress are expected to continue their efforts to kill the worker safety rules.

$50 Million Award Upheld vs. CSX Railroad

The Supreme Court, rejecting a railroad's appeal, let stand a $50 million award won by the heirs of a Florida man killed in a train derailment in South Carolina nine years ago.

The justices, acting without comment, turned away CSX Transportation Inc. arguments that a state court's award—punishing the railroad for not maintaining a track switch—unduly interfered with interstate commerce.

Paul Palank was killed when an Amtrak train traveling from Miami to the District of Columbia derailed in Lugoff, S.C., on July 31, 1991. Eight passengers were killed; 90 passengers and crew members were injured.

The accident was caused by a switch that malfunctioned when the train passed over it.

Palank's widow, Angelica, sued CSX in a Broward County, Fla., court on behalf of her husband's heirs.

CSX did not contest its liability for damages to compensate for the relatives' loss, so trial of the lawsuit was divided into three parts—to set the amount of compensatory damages, to determine whether CSX should pay punitive damages and, if so, what amount.

In the trial's first phase, lawyers for Mrs. Palank presented evidence of CSX's reductions in maintenance of way employees nationwide between 1981 and 1993—reductions they said saved the railroad $2.4 billion over 10 years. They blamed the accident on the railroad's downsizing.

A jury ordered the railroad to pay $6 million in compensatory damages. Then a different jury ruled that CSX was liable for punitive damages—aimed at punishing past acts and deterring future misconduct—and set that amount at $50 million.

A state appeals court upheld that amount, and the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear CSX's appeal.

In seeking help from the nation's highest court, the railroad did not challenge the $6 million compensatory award. But it contended that the $50 million award amounted to Florida punishing CSX "for lawful personnel reductions in other states."

The appeal said a 1996 Supreme Court decision bars states from imposing "economic sanctions on violators of its laws with the intent of changing ... lawful conduct in other states."

But lawyers for Mrs. Palank urged the justices to reject the CSX appeal. They said the punitive damages were not awarded for lawful out-of-state conduct but for "unlawful disregard of federal safety regulations and for fraudulent reporting."

Reprinted by permission from The Associated Press, October 2, 2000.

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