Norfolk Southern Safety Enhancements Align with NTSB East Palestine Final Recommendations

26.06.24 00:02 Uhr

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Vent and burn recommendation based on several factors indicating strong possibility of catastrophic, uncontrolled explosion threatening health and safety of the community and first responders

ATLANTA, June 25, 2024 /PRNewswire/ -- Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) issued the following statement regarding the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio:

Norfolk Southern Corporation Logo (PRNewsfoto/Norfolk Southern Corporation)

Norfolk Southern appreciates the NTSB's investigation, recommendations for enhancing rail safety and the acknowledgement of the steps Norfolk Southern has taken to improve safety. We share the commitment and over the last 16 months have implemented many enhancements and technologies to make our railroad even safer. 

Among the NTSB recommendations specific to Norfolk Southern, we have taken action to enable the immediate availability of train consist information to first responders and encourage contractors to share information to make emergency response decisions. In addition, we have substantially addressed the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recommendations from its 2023 Safety Culture Assessment. As a result of these actions and others, Norfolk Southern's mainline accident rate declined 38% last year to industry leading levels. We will move quickly to compare the NTSB's recommendations to our current protocols and will implement those that advance our safety culture. 

The NTSB again confirmed our crew's actions reflect the professionalism and commitment to safety of all Norfolk Southern operators. Specifically, investigators noted:

  • The rail crew operated the train below the track speed limit and handled the train in an approved manner.
  • There were no track defects.
  • Once the rail crew was alerted by the wayside detector, they acted appropriately by immediately beginning to stop the train.

"We resolved not to wait for the NTSB's final report before taking decisive action," said John Fleps, Chief Safety Officer at Norfolk Southern. "We will continue to build on our strong safety culture through partnership and innovation to be the gold standard of safety for the rail industry." 

Norfolk Southern has:

  • Become the first railroad to partner with RapidSOS, a digital platform that connects devices over 16,000 emergency response agencies to immediately provide first responders with real-time access to train consists, train locations, and emergency response protocols.
  • Continued to advocate for phasing out inferior customer-owned DOT-111 tank cars and imposing a more expedited phaseout timetable than federal regulations have provided given our role as a common carrier under which we are obligated to accept DOT-111 tank cars.
  • Launched and implemented Six-Point Safety Plan including:
    • Installing 187 additional hot bearing detectors, reducing core network average distance between detectors to approximately 12 miles;
    • Quadrupling acoustic bearing detectors;
    • Developing and deploying Digital Train Inspection Portals, using ultra-high-resolution cameras and machine vision; and
    • Investing in next-generation inspection technology.
  • Continued to invest significant resources in training first responders on hazmat response.
    • Broke ground on a new regional first responder training center in East Palestine, Ohio and will invest $25 million in the new center.
    • Continued to provide classroom and online resources, tabletop drills, and full-scale exercises to help responders prepare for incidents through our OAR program.
    • Participated in industry efforts to help communities develop emergency response plans.
  • In collaboration with labor unions, become the first Class I railroad to join the FRA's Confidential Close Call Reporting System.
  • Brought in world-class safety experts, AtkinsRéalis (ANS) to conduct an independent review and implement a 2-3 year roadmap of additional safety initiatives.

Additional information is available in Norfolk Southern's 2024 Midyear Report on Safety Accomplishments and Ongoing Initiatives.

Vent and Burn Recommendation

Norfolk Southern and its expert contractors' only motivation in recommending the vent and burn to the Unified Command was the health and safety of the community and first responders.

After carefully considering all alternatives, Norfolk Southern and its specialist contractors recommended a controlled vent and burn to the Unified Command as the only option to protect the community from a potential catastrophic explosion. This recommendation was developed under guidance from two of only three specialized firms in the country certified by the Chlorine Institute to respond to vinyl chloride emergencies.

Several key factors indicated the strong possibility of a catastrophic, uncontrolled explosion including:

  • The tank cars had been damaged in a high-speed derailment and were exposed to extensive pool fires.
  • The pressure relief devices were not working – the behavior of the pressure relief devices on the affected tank cars indicated that dangerous pressure was building inside the tank cars without being properly released.
  • The manufacturer's safety guidance warned that vinyl chloride monomer may polymerize when exposed to the conditions present at the derailment.
  • Other options for safely removing the vinyl chloride monomer cars from the derailment site (such as rerailing them) were not possible, due to damage sustained in the derailment and dangerous conditions on-site.

Norfolk Southern and its contractors received conflicting information from Oxy Vinyls' personnel as to whether polymerization was or could be occurring. And Oxy Vinyls' safety data sheet was clear that polymerization was possible in the circumstances observed at the derailment. 

Norfolk Southern does not agree with the conclusion that it "withheld" Oxy Vinyls' views from the Unified Command.

Oxy Vinyls had every opportunity to participate in the Unified Command. They were on scene in the building where the Unified Command was operating.  There was no obstacle to Oxy Vinyls making their views known to the ultimate decision-makers. 

Unified Command was advised that a vent and burn procedure might be necessary approximately 20 hours before the Unified Command made the final decision to proceed with the operation. Expert contractors began necessary preparations in the event a vent and burn recommendation was adopted.

The vent and burn effectively avoided a potential uncontrolled explosion. There was no loss of life and contractors took steps to manage environmental impact. 

Vent and Burn Workgroup

Norfolk Southern will convene a Vent and Burn Workgroup to integrate key learnings for any future scenario where a vent and burn may be necessary.  The Workgroup is being developed pursuant to the Company's DOJ/EPA Consent Decree, which is currently awaiting court approval. 

Norfolk Southern supports and looks forward to helping improve Unified Command processes, including through the Vent and Burn Workgroup. We believe it should be a requirement for stakeholders to directly voice their concerns to Unified Command.

Committed to East Palestine

We promised to clean the site safely, thoroughly and with urgency—and we're a company that keeps its promises. We have made significant progress with respect to environmental remediation and completed the removal of impacted soil. 

Robust sampling programs, under EPA oversight, at the derailment site and in the community at large have consistently shown the air and water around the site are safe.

We have also invested more than $5 million to overhaul the municipal water system with state-of-the-art technology including new engineering and carbon filtration systems. 

We take our responsibility to East Palestine and the surrounding community seriously. Since day one we have followed through on our commitment to doing what's right to ensure the area recovers and thrives. We continue to update our progress at

About Norfolk Southern
Since 1827, Norfolk Southern Corporation (NYSE: NSC) and its predecessor companies have safely moved the goods and materials that drive the U.S. economy. Today, it operates a customer-centric and operations-driven freight transportation network. Committed to furthering sustainability, Norfolk Southern helps its customers avoid approximately 15 million tons of yearly carbon emissions by shipping via rail. Its dedicated team members deliver more than 7 million carloads annually, from agriculture to consumer goods, and Norfolk Southern originates more automotive traffic than any other Class I Railroad. Norfolk Southern also has the most extensive intermodal network in the eastern U.S. It serves a majority of the country's population and manufacturing base, with connections to every major container port on the Atlantic coast as well as major ports in the Gulf of Mexico and Great Lakes. Learn more by visiting

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SOURCE Norfolk Southern Corporation

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