Printer Friendly

RAIL WORKERS AT NORFOLK SOUTHERN EXPOSED TO HARMFUL LEVELS OF SILICA DUST, COMPANY HAS KNOWN FOR EIGHT YEARS

 RAIL WORKERS AT NORFOLK SOUTHERN EXPOSED TO HARMFUL LEVELS OF
 SILICA DUST, COMPANY HAS KNOWN FOR EIGHT YEARS
 WASHINGTON, Feb. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- For eight years, the Norfolk and Southern Railroad has knowingly allowed its maintenance of way workers to be exposed to dangerous levels of silica dust, according to a report released by the government's National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
 Moreover, Norfolk and Southern withheld this information from its employees, according to the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE), which represents the workers.
 The study revealed in some cases that workers are exposed to as much as 20 times the allowed levels of dust particles, which are generated by the crushed rock on rail beds.
 According to the report, Norfolk Southern has known for eight years that its maintenance of way workers were being exposed to high levels of silica dust which can lead to silicosis, a chronic lung disease. As early as 1984, the railroad conducted tests which revealed that some workers were being exposed to mineral dust containing silica which were more than twice the permissible exposure levels established by OSHA.
 Mac A. Fleming, president of the BMWE, condemned Norfolk Southern's actions, charging that "by deliberately withholding this information, NS has knowingly endangered the health and safety of its maintenance of way workers."
 "For eight years now, Norfolk Southern has known there was a problem and they have incredibly chosen to ignore the well being of their workers," Fleming said. "Instead of acting responsibly and initiating an adequate safety program, including remedial action, to reduce exposure and to provide employees with appropriate respiratory equipment and training, NS decided that the health and safety of their maintenance of way workers wasn't a corporate priority. As a result of their callous decision, hundreds -- perhaps thousands -- of workers continue to be exposed to excessive levels of silica dust."
 "Norfolk Southern's actions can only be described as unconscionable," Fleming said, adding that the BMWE is considering action against the carrier because of Norfolk Southern's failure to disclose the problem and take appropriate corrective action to protect the workers. He said that the union is awaiting results of medical examinations of maintenance of way workers at NS before it determines what action the union should take.
 Based on environmental samples taken by NIOSH in Virginia and North Carolina during 1991, the report concluded that "there is convincing evidence that railroad maintenance of way workers (at Norfolk Southern) have been and are being overexposed to silica."
 In addition, NIOSH stated that "there is considerable confusion about whether FRA (the Federal Railroad Administration) or OSHA (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration) has responsibility for monitoring silica exposure on the railways."
 The study, conducted at the request of the Virginia Department of Health, came after an NS maintenance of way worker was diagnosed with advanced stages of silicosis, a form of pneumoconiosis similar to asbestosis or black lung. Patients with silicosis often have trouble breathing and show signs of lung deterioration. NIOSH also considers silica a potential carcinogen.
 NIOSH found that 54 percent of the samples taken from within workers' "personal breathing zone" exceeded or equalled the acceptable levels for respirable silica. Meanwhile, 48 percent of samples taken within three feet of workers' breathing zones equalled or exceeded acceptable levels for silica, and 16 percent of personal samples and 19 percent of area samples equalled or exceeded allowed levels for respirable quartz.
 In one area sample, the quartz concentration was 20 times the acceptable range. In another area sample, the cristobalite concentrations were nine times the acceptable amount. Quartz and cristobalite are constituent materials of silica.
 "We know of instances where workers are suffering from debilitating problems as a result of exposure to silica," Fleming said.
 The NIOSH investigation also revealed that the continuing jurisdictional dispute between FRA and OSHA has exacerbated the problem.
 "Neither...FRA nor OSHA has ever attempted to evaluate maintenance of way employees' exposure to silica," the report said. "There is no definitive answer to the question of which federal agency (FRA or OSHA) has responsibility and authority for monitoring."
 "This is probably only the tip of the iceberg," Fleming said. "This problem is certain to exist throughout the railroad industry."
 Fleming called on FRA and OSHA to determine who has responsibility over the matter, and he demanded that the responsible agency conduct a thorough investigation of silica exposure throughout the industry.
 He also called on Congress to pass legislation to eliminate gaps in OSHA and FRA coverage, as railroad unions have proposed for more than 10 years.
 -0- 2/28/92
 /CONTACT: Steve Fountain of BMWE, 313-868-0490 Ext. 255, or Al Comeaux, 202-289-0800, for BMWE/ CO: Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees; Norfolk and
 Southern Railroad ST: Virginia IN: TRN SU:


MK -- DC008 -- 3692 02/28/92 11:59 EST
COPYRIGHT 1992 PR Newswire Association LLC
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Feb 28, 1992
Words:803
Previous Article:GREEN TREE ACCEPTANCES DECLARES CASH DIVIDEND
Next Article:AMSCO INTERNATIONAL, INC. COMPLETES ACQUISITION OF FINN-AQUA SANTASALO-SOHLBERG OY
Topics:


Related Articles
BMWE SUES SECRETARY OF LABOR DEMANDING THAT OSHA ENFORCE SILICA DUST SAFETY REGULATIONS
CSX And Norfolk Southern File Application For Historic Restructuring Of Eastern Rail System
Norfolk Southern Seeks Court Order on Georgia Intermodal Project.
Norfolk Southern Forms MODALGISTICS(SM) Group, Names Lawson President.
Norfolk Southern Dedicates Rail Yard to Serve Honda in Alabama.
NS Annual Report Cites Performance Improvements.
Norfolk Southern's 'Best Friend' Visits Stock Exchange for Opening Bell Ceremony.
Annual Report Hails Company's Best Year on Its 175th Anniversary.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters