Worker Deaths Highlight Public Safety Issue

This 112-car CSX train derailed and caused explosions in Ohio in 2007

Once again, a rail worker has been struck and killed by a locomotive.  Greg Kastner, a 63-year-old hostler for the New Jersey Transit died on Monday.  (A hostler services engines in between runs.) He is one of more than 650 workers to die on the job in the last seven months.

My blog has focused on some of the rail industry deaths in part for personal reasons. I have many good friends who work in the railroad trades and I know how the needlessly difficult working conditions endanger them. But I also focus on the railroads because they represent an enormous public safety issue.  If the railroads skimp on maintenance of track or engine or train, the public is endangered. If they push workers to the limits of exhaustion (and they do) while also short-staffing, the public is endangered. The danger lies not only in derailment, which can kill passengers or passers-by, but in the cargo itself.  In 2002, for example, 15 tankers of anhydrous ammonia were part of a train that derailed in Minot, North Dakota. As hundreds of thousands of gallons leaked out, the fluid vaporized in a toxic cloud that killed one person and hospitalized many more. In 2007, another derailment released the chemical solvent cyclohexane, which caught fire and forced an evacuation of more than 500 people near Louisville, KY. That same year, a freight train carrying hazardous materials caught fire in Ohio near an elementary school. Earlier this year, a derailment of another train carrying chemicals forced an evacuation in a 1-mile radius near Santa Fe, Texas.  These are just a few examples out of many.

My heart goes out to the family and co-workers of Greg Kastner, who was so close to retirement age. And I hope the regulators will pay attention to all these deaths, for the sake of the workforce and the sake of us all.


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3 Responses to “Worker Deaths Highlight Public Safety Issue”

  1. The Funeral Train Grows Longer « Erstwhile Luddite Says:

    […] written about this all before here, here, and here. I’ve resisted writing about it through the summer because without the resources […]

  2. CF Says:

    Thank you. This is my dad.

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