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MA Rail Operation Fights OSHA Case

Friday, November 18, 2011

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A commuter railroad in Massachusetts is contesting 22 federal health and safety citations and a $130,800 fine related to working conditions at a maintenance facility.

The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. LLC is challenging a wide range of serious allegations made by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration about the railroad’s maintenance facility in Somerville.

 Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. LLC
The Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad is negotiating with OSHA over 22 serious violations.

The citations, which stem from three inspections between April and October, include exposures to chemical burns, lacerations, amputations, electrocution, fires, slips, falls and other serious hazards throughout the facility.

“The sizable fines proposed here reflect the number and breadth of hazardous conditions found at this facility,” said Jeffrey A. Erskine, OSHA’s area director for Middlesex and Essex counties. "While some violations were corrected during the course of the inspection, the railroad must correct all hazards and take effective steps to prevent their recurrence."

Railroad: ‘Highest Possible Level of Safety’

MBCR contends that it corrected or is addressing the violations.

“MBCR has worked cooperatively and collaboratively with OSHA over the past six months to address all safety and workplace concerns,” the railroad said in prepared statement.

“In that period, MBCR has abated or is in the process of addressing all of the issues identified by OSHA. The company will continue to work closely with OSHA and the [Federal Railroad Administration] to ensure the highest possible level of safety for employees and customers.”

The railroad said that it had the second-lowest rate of workplace injury in the passenger railroad industry and that it had significantly improved safety in its workplace, reducing workplace injuries by 58% in the last year.

“MBCR treats safety with the utmost seriousness,” the statement said.

Serious Violations

OSHA documents detail 22 serious health and safety violations. Serious violations are hazards the employer knew about (or should have known about) that carry a “substantial probability” of death or serious injury.

The allegations include:

• Unqualified employees working on energized electrical equipment without fire-resistant clothing, voltage-rated tools or other proper personal protective equipment;

• Exposed electrical circuits, blocked electrical panels, misused power cords, and failure to lock out electrical power sources during maintenance;

• Struck-by and caught-in-between hazards involving equipment;

• Improper and unsecured storage of oxygen, propane and acetylene cylinders;

• A storage cabinet for flammables blocking an emergency exit;

• Allowing employees to dispense and dilute corrosive chemicals without face shields, hand protection and protective clothing;

• Unguarded saw blades;

• Unlabeled containers of hazardous chemicals; and

• Failure to offer the Hepatitis B vaccination to employees potentially exposed to bloodborne pathogens while cleaning passenger cars.

Negotiations Underway

MBCR’s management and union officials met Nov. 7 with OSHA’s two assistant area directors to review the citations in an informal conference, Erskine told The Tufts Daily.

If informal talks fail, the next step would be a formal appeal to the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, an independent agency.

However, Erskine was optimistic about a settlement, telling the Daily that MBCR was “taking proactive measures to better protect their employees in the future.”


Tagged categories: Citations; Health and safety; Mass transit; OSHA; Personal protective equipment; Public Transit; Violations

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