Friday, August 29, 2014

NTSB Paulsboro report faults training adequacy

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A National Transportation Safety Board report on a Conrail Shared Assets derailment in Paulsboro, N.J., cites several factors, including inadequate safety training for train crews, as contributing factors.

The NTSB report on the Nov. 30, 2012 incident recommends at least two dozen changes, including training and qualification reviews for both train crews and first responders.

NSTB released the latest report on Aug. 26, 2014. It issued an initial report on the incident on Dec. 18, 2012, roughly three weeks after the derailment occurred in Paulsboro, roughly 14 miles southwest of Philadelphia and of Camden, N.J..

The 84-car Conrail train, carrying commodities that included hazardous materials, derailed even though the century-old swing bridge spanning Mantua Creek had been inspected and permission from the dispatcher was requested. In addition, readings from a data recorder showed the train was moving at 7 mph, well below the speed limit of 10 mph, when it derailed. Despite such caution, seven cars derailed, with one releasing vinyl chloride into the air.

NTSB said the probable primary cause of the accident was Conrail's failure to heed the warning of the red light signal and, despite crew efforts to address that signal, allowing the train to proceed. NTSB also said that Conrail's programs training and qualifying crews for such incidents were inadequate.

As well, NTSB also cited " lack of a safety management program that would have identified and mitigated the risks associated with the continued operation of the bridge." And it faulted the Paulsboro, N.J. fire department for failing establish hazardous materials response protocols, contributing to the severity of the situation.

The bridge itself had generated numerous incident reports, which NTSB suggested should have prompted Conrail to curtail or cease operations until a more permanent remedy was implemented.

Conrail spokesman Mike Hotra said the railroad "appreciates the consideration with which the National Transportation Safety Board has conducted its investigation" and is "evaluating the NTSB findings and recommendations and will implement all appropriate measures."