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East Palestine Derailment: Cost to Date
A report at The Hill states that the recent East Palestine derailment has cost Norfolk Southern $387 million so far. Even for a large corporation that is a lot of money, and the cleanup process is far from complete.
Previous posts that we have published on this topic include:
The East Palestine Derailment
We provide Safety Data Sheet information for vinyl chloride. We also discuss likely causes of the event, and the decision to intentionally ignite the spill.
This post provides some information that a more recent derailment accident that occurred in Minnesota.
The railroad industry seems to make no distinction between occupational and process safety.
Another report from The Hill describes the Railway Safety Act introduced by Senators Brown and Vance.
The bill would impose a number of safety standards that rail worker unions have repeatedly pressed for, including two-person crews on trains. It would also give the federal government, rather than private railroads, oversight over railroad-track heat sensors. The sensors on the tracks running past East Palestine were shown as growing steadily hotter leading up to the February crash, but they did not reach the temperature at which trains are required to stop until it was too late to avoid derailment.
From the point of view of process safety professionals, two issues seem to of particular concern.
Need for Regulations
The first issue is whether there should be government rules to do with topics such as railroad track heat sensors, or whether the industry can self-regulate. Going back to the principles of process safety, a sensible response would be on the following lines:
Create a non-prescriptive regulation that requires companies to develop detailed standards to prevent serious accidents.
Require companies to develop and enforce those standards within a specified time period.
Evaluate the effectiveness of the new standards.
If they are not effective, if accidents continue to happen, then the regulator can write detailed, prescriptive rules.
Occupational and Process Safety
The second issue of concern is the distinction between occupational and process safety. Typically, around 5 to 10% of a normal freight train consists of chemical tank cars containing highly hazardous chemicals, such as vinyl chloride. Yet most safety discussions are to do with overheated bearings or collisions at railroad crossings.
A process safety evaluation could help the authorities make decisions to do with issues such as whether the contents of derailed tank cars should be intentionally ignited.
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