Norfolk Southern (NS) Employees Injured by Toxic Chemicals

Once again Norfolk Southern (NS)Rail Road Corp. is in the news because of on the job injuries.  Two contract railroad workers were seriously injured Sunday in a railroad accident, trying to contain a rail car toxic chemical leak in Roanoke Virginia (VA).  The worst part was that they weren't wearing any protective equipment, a Norfolk Southern Corp. spokesman said.  My question is why not?  These cars routinely carry toxic substances and all employees should be wearing protective gear if working close to and beside cars with known toxic chemicals.

To make matters worse this rail car was carrying molten sulfur.  (If that's not considered toxic chemical, I don't know what is) and was on a repair track near Shaffers Crossing NS yard in Roanoke.  So Norfolk Southern is plainly stating that they knew there was a problem with this rail car, and it was carrying a highly toxic chemical and they still didn't require workers to wear protective gear?  I wonder if this complies with NS's own hazardous substance safety policies?

Being the responsible workers they were, when employees noticed a sulfurous odor coming from the car they investigated and discovered a gasket in the tanker dome was leaking and called W.E.L. Inc., an environmental cleanup company based in Concord, NS spokesman Chapman said.

Two contract workers were overcome by fumes, when they removed the dome.  They were taken to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital and are in serious but stable condition.  A Norfolk Southern employee was also taken to the hospital and later released. 

I see a lot of injury cases for railroad workers and it always amazes me how NS public relations folks claim sincerity and concern when it comes to employee safety.  I recently wrote about NS's New Brochure for Injured Workers and it states: "When an accident occurs, it is the company's policy to see that an injured employee receives prompt medical attention from top medical professionals, that the employee's personal and family needs are met, and that they are returned to their job as soon as possible."

However, NS used to direct have a supervisor to carry a worker far from the nearest medical facility to a contract medical clinic that it has negotiated a better rate with.  That practice became outlawed by new federal regulations requiring that a railroad provide medical care at the nearest facility.  It should be noted that all railroad workers that are unionized are covered by health insurance contracts and workers are entitled to have medical care from their own doctors, not from a clinic or a doctor that has a preexisting agreement with NS. We dispute that NS wants you to be treated by the "top medical professionals" and indeed will often go out of its way to require that a worker initially be seen by  a doctor that it has a prior relationship with.  Also, NS tries to have your medical providers release personal information to NS, and there have been reported cases where NS supervisors have tried to convince doctors not to prescribe medications or remove a worker from active service. You know how it goes, concerned about your safety, or concerned about a safety award?

Back to the story at hand, this was such a toxic chemical that even the trained W.E.L. workers suffered chemical burns and respiratory injuries.  The leak prompted emergency crews to evacuate homes and businesses within a half-mile of the leak.

Our railroad injury/disease law firm has been representing railroad workers (transport workers such as engineers, switchman, conductors) for years, whohas contracted various health illnesses including cancers as a result of being exposed to toxic or radioactive substances moved by railroads in and out of a nuclear weapons and uranium enrichment nuclear plants/facilities.  We've been included among the  best personal injury lawyers in virginia by published guides (2010) and are considered "superb" (source: Avvo lawyer rating services) based on information from lawyers and from every day people such as former clients.

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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