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US safety agency to open special investigation into railway operator following multiple incidents

13 March 2023

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has announced that it has opened a special investigation of railway operator Norfolk Southern Railway’s organisation and safety culture. The investigation has been opened given the number and significance of recent Norfolk Southern accidents, including the derailment of a train carrying hazardous materials in Ohio on February 3.

The February 3 derailment in Ohio - Image: NTSB
The February 3 derailment in Ohio - Image: NTSB

The NTSB has urged the company to take immediate action to review and assess its safety practices, with the input of employees and others, and implement necessary changes to improve safety.

Since December 2021, NTSB has launched investigation teams to five significant accidents involving Norfolk Southern.

On December 8, 2021, an employee for National Salvage and Service Corporation assigned to work with a Norfolk Southern work team replacing track was killed when the operator of a spike machine reversed direction and struck the employee in Reed, Pennsylvania. 

On December 13, 2022, a Norfolk Southern trainee conductor was killed, and another conductor was injured, when the lead locomotive of a Norfolk Southern freight train struck a steel angle iron protruding from a gondola car on another Norfolk Southern freight train that was stopped on an adjacent track in Bessemer, Alabama.

On February 3?, a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The derailment resulted in a significant fire and hazardous materials release.

On March 4, a 2.55-mile-long Norfolk Southern freight train derailed near Springfield, Ohio.

On March 7?, a Norfolk Southern employee was killed during a movement in Cleveland, Ohio.

As part of the special investigation, the NTSB will also review the October ?8, 2022, Norfolk Southern derailment in Sandusky, Ohio.

The NTSB said it is concerned that several organisational factors may be involved in the accidents, including safety culture. The NTSB will conduct an in-depth investigation into the safety practices and culture of the company. At the same time, the company should not wait to improve safety and the NTSB urges it to do so immediately.

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