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Railcar Factory Faces $105K OSHA Bill

Monday, June 6, 2016

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A major manufacturer of railcars and equipment in the U.S. faces $105,000 in fines after allegedly exposing painters and other workers to unsafe levels of dangerous chemicals, including lead and cadmium.

The Alstom Transportation Inc. manufacturing facility in Hornell, NY, faces 17 serious violations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration after inspections found that the company allegedly failed to train and protect workers dealing with chemicals known to cause cancer and other health problems.

Failure to Protect

According to the citation, Alstom:

  • failed to regularly fit-test face-piece respirators used by painters in a spray booth;
  • failed to train painters and other workers on respiratory protection;
  • failed to provide adequate ventilation in welding and plasma cutting areas, and
  • did not supply welders with respiratory protection while they were exposed to chromium metal, nickel, copper fume and iron oxide fume. 
Alstom welders working on a railcar

OSHA alleges that Alstom did not supply welders with respiratory protection while they were exposed to chromium metal, nickel, copper fume and iron oxide fume.

The company allegedly exposed workers to unsafe levels of lead, and did not use the proper controls while workers sandblasted railcar parts, exposing them to silica. OSHA alleges that Alstom then did not provide proper medical surveillance to workers who had been exposed to the materials.

Alstom also failed to provide proper change and shower rooms, OSHA says, potentially exposing workers to dangerous chemicals in areas such as break rooms and lunch rooms. The violations also include alleged unsafe noise exposure, and failure to properly bond and ground vessels during the transfer of flammable liquids.

The citation also includes one “other-than-serious” violation, alleging that the company failed to properly clean the break room, which could have exposed workers to residues of the chemicals to which the employees had been exposed.

NYC subway car
By Kevin.B - CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Alstom’s Hornell facility has supplied rail cars to transit systems in New York City and Chicago, among other locales.

The citation is based on inspections that took place between Nov. 30, 2015, and Feb. 11, 2016. It was officially issued on May 24. The Department of Labor released the information publicly on Wednesday (June 1).

Each violation comes with a price tag of between $4,000 and $7,000. The proposed fines add up to $105,000,  and the violations call for corrective action to be taken. The company has 15 working days (until June 15) to inform OSHA if it plans to contest the violations or the penalties.

Largest U.S. Railcar Factory

Alstom Transportation is a subsidiary of the French multinational corporation Alstom, which, according to its website, does business in more than 20 countries. According to Alstom, the Hornell facility has been making train components for nearly 150 years.

At 700,000 square feet, it is the largest rail manufacturing facility in the U.S., according to the company. Alstom’s Hornell facility has supplied rail cars to transit systems in New York City and Chicago, among other locales.

U.S. Department of Labor

The Department of Labor issued the citation on Tue., May 24.

The last OSHA citation addressing violations at the Hornell plant came in 2007; those violations dealt mainly with workplace safeguards and industrial trucks, and were unrelated to the types of violation alleged in the new citation.

In December 2014, Alstom entered a plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice over alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act; those charges related to Alstom's power and grid divisions, which have since been sold to General Electric.

Taking Action

On Thursday (June 2), Alstom representatives told the Elmira, NY, Star-Gazette in a statement that it would be taking action, including “purchasing and installing additional mechanical and supplemental ventilation systems, regularly monitoring air levels, reviewing and updating training procedures, and providing retraining and education for employees.

“Alstom will continue to research additional improvements to ensure the health and safety of our employees—now and in the future.”


Tagged categories: Department of Labor; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Health & Safety; Lead; North America; Occupational noise; OSHA; Railcars; Silica; Violations

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