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Railcar Finishing Operation Fined $133K

Thursday, December 12, 2013

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Abrasive blasting without fall protection, lining work in unexamined confined spaces, silica hazards and other dangers have drawn federal citations against a railcar finishing contractor for the second time in a year.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Rail Car Services LLC, of Kansas City, KS, for 11 safety and health violations, including eight repeat, at its Kansas City railcar refurbishing facility. Proposed fines total $133,000.

The new citations, stemming from an inspection in June, follow a list of 14 serious citations issued against the company in August 2012 for many of the same hazards.

Railcar Safety Training
Orwigsburg (PA) Fire Department

Instructors from Harrisburg Area (PA) Community College train a fire department rescue team in proper confined-space safety procedures for railcars. Rail Car Services faces confined-space violations.

In the 2012 case, the original fine of $25,200 was reduced to $2,520, and the company is following a payment plan on the fine, according to OSHA records. The orders in that case were affirmed on Sept. 18, 2012.

Both cases were prompted by complaints.

A woman at Rail Car Services declined comment Wednesday (Dec. 11), citing an impending meeting with OSHA.

Repeat Violations

Rail Car Services refurbishes rail cars, including hopper-style cars. Workers enter the cars through top access doors to perform blasting, lining and general maintenance.

The current case includes one safety violation and 10 health violations.

The repeat safety violation, which carries a $14,000 fine, alleges that abrasive blasters were working 14 feet high, atop railcars, without fall protection. Nor were other employees protected when accessing the top port holes to enter the cars, OSHA said.

Railcar Rescue
Rex Blair / Edwards (CA) Fire Department

Kern County and Edwards, CA, firefighters teamed up in January to rescue a man trapped for a week in a railcar in Mojave, CA. Railcar interiors are considered permit-required confined spaces.

OSHA inspectors found that a fall-protection system had been installed but was inadequate to cover the number of workers, and that the company did not require its use.

Five of the repeat health citations involve OSHA's permit-required confined space program. Confined-space standards establish procedures to protect workers who must enter, work in, or exit spaces with configurations that hinder their activities.

The repeat violations include alleged failure to:

  • Evaluate work spaces, such as hopper cars, for confined-space requirements and atmospheric conditions;
  • Inform exposed workers of the existence and location of confined spaces;
  • Use entry permits; and
  • Provide hazardous-chemical training to workers.

Another repeat violation alleged failure to adequately train employees in respirator use.

Serious Violations

One serious health violation involved Hazard Communication lapses that exposed abrasive blasters to silica.

Two serious violations alleged failure to evaluate workers medically for respirator usage and to ensure the proper grade of compressed breathing air.

Serious violations reflect life-threatening hazards.


Tagged categories: Confined space; Fall protection; Hazard Communication Standard (HCS); Health and safety; OSHA; Railcars; Tank interiors; Worker training

Comment from Tony Rangus, (12/12/2013, 9:46 AM)

Why do we in the industry allow OSHA to be so toothless? This manufacturer should be burned beyond recognition. If that means pulling all permits & shutting him down, so be it. It is obvious he cares nothing about his employees safety and health!

Comment from peter gibson, (12/12/2013, 11:52 AM)

The problem stems from not having one point person to keep an eye on safety issues.It is dumbfounding, that in this day and age,that this still happens.Clearly not part of the man. structure.

Comment from M. Halliwell, (12/13/2013, 3:01 PM)

Tony, although I agree that this is ridiculous and these flagrant repeat and willful types should be shut down, you and I both know there are those out there who will line up to protest "heavy handedness" and "government interference" the moment they tried.

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