WASHINGTON – In response to a Teamsters’ report warning that the nation’s railways are still vulnerable to terrorist attacks and other emergencies, U.S. Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, D-Mass., on Dec. 6 introduced legislation that would establish a comprehensive emergency training program for all rail workers.
The Teamster Rail Conference report, "High Alert," detailed an appalling lack of emergency training for workers in this post 9-11 era. Workers overwhelmingly reported that they had not received terrorism response and prevention training in the past year.
"Rep. Lynch’s bill makes significant strides to correct a bad situation," said John F. Murphy, director of the Teamsters Rail Conference. "Our members say that one of their biggest safety concerns is the lack of training for terrorist attacks and evacuations. Every day they see security breaches, such as trespassers in rail yards, yet there is no plan for how to handle these safety breaches or how to prevent them."
The Rail Worker Emergency Training Act of 2005 (H.R. 4372) would appropriate $100 million to establish comprehensive guidelines for a rail worker emergency training program that includes addressing key issues such as inspections of critical infrastructure and equipment, storage of hazardous material, emergency evacuation procedures and unauthorized access to rail yards and equipment. Rail carriers would be required to develop worker training programs based on the government’s guidelines.
"Our members tell us they are unaware of their employers’ plan for emergency situations," Murphy said. "The rail carriers say this security plan is so confidential that it must be kept a secret from Congress and the American people. If they had had a plan they would have at least turned it over to Congress. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that there is no plan."
"Our nation’s railroad employees go to work lacking proper training to handle security issues," said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. "They know that trains running through our communities haul dangerous materials that could cause thousands of deaths. A simple accident can cause mass casualties and a terrorist attack would be catastrophic."
There are significant threats to the public from unattended hazardous rail shipments, unsecured rail yards and employees’ lack of emergency training, Murphy said.
"Four years after September 11th, two years after the Madrid bombings, and six months after the bombings in London, the United States has still not taken the necessary steps to improve rail security," Lynch said. "Our rail workers haven’t received terrorism prevention and response training, and we are wholly unprepared to prevent and respond to a terrorist attack or disaster on the rails. It’s inexcusable. This is a low-cost, and enormously effective step we can take to heighten security and preparedness on our railways. It’s a matter of common sense."
The Rail Worker Emergency Training Act of 2005 would:
- Require the Secretary of Homeland Security, within 90 days of enactment, to establish comprehensive guidelines for a rail worker emergency training program. The Secretary’s guidelines must address several key areas, including critical infrastructure and equipment security inspection, hazardous material storage, transport, and monitoring, unauthorized rail yard access, locomotive cab securement, and evacuation procedures in the event of fire or natural disaster.
- Require the Secretary to consult with the Secretary of Transportation and “appropriate rail entities,” including, freight and passenger railroad carriers, rail worker unions, public safety officials, and State Departments of Transportations.
- Require rail carriers to develop a rail worker training program based on the Secretary’s guidelines and to train all of their rail workers within 1 year.
- Authorize the Secretary to issue letters of noncompliance – to be published in the Federal Register – to any carrier that fails to comply with the Act’s requirements.
- Appropriate 100 million dollars to the Secretary to carry out the act.
— PRNewswire contributed to this report.