July 24, 2014

FRA moving to require crew respirators

WASHINGTON — Railroads will be required by the Federal Railroad Administration to provide respirators for train and engine workers hauling hazardous materials.

The Rail Safety Improvement Act mandated that the FRA impose such a requirement through a rulemaking, which is in its final stages toward implementation.

However, the effective date could still be two years away under a draft FRA proposal that may be finalized as early as late December.

Inhalation injuries have caused two crew deaths and more than 660 injuries over the past decade, the FRA said.

The FRA proposes that the respirators be capable of protecting train and engine workers for at least 15 minutes following a release of hazmat, giving them time to escape the cab and move to safety.

The FRA proposes that Class I railroads comply with the requirement within two years of final publication of the rule, and smaller railroads would be required to comply within 30 months.

The UTU, in commenting to the FRA on the proposed rule, urged that the respirators be permanently mounted in the cab rather than railroads issuing them to train and engine service workers. The UTU said train and engine crews already carry a lot of equipment, and a permanent mounting would ensure availability of the respirators in the event of a hazmat release.