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Tanker car site of fatal workplace accident due to toxic fumes

Many Louisiana residents have seen those huge tanker cars on trains and wondered what's inside. In some cases, it is a particularly nasty substance that can cause serious or even fatal conditions in a person if they are exposed to the substance. But here's the kicker: once those tankers are emptied of their substance, someone has to go in there and clean it out.

Bet there aren't many people in Slidell or across Louisiana who thought about that when they saw a tanker car.

We bring this up, sadly, because of a recent incident that claimed the life of a worker who was cleaning a tanker car that recently carried some toxic fumes. The worker lost consciousness while cleaning the tanker car and eventually died as a result.

It is being called an accident, but there was an investigative report that found 373 locations where industrial cleaning of a rail car was permitted, and the location where this accident occurred was not identified among the 373 locations. That doesn't mean it was illegal -- it is merely meant to show the scope of tanker car cleaning. It is massive, and there simple aren't enough inspectors out there to ensure these locations are safe for workers.

The lack of inspectors is a problem in many workplaces. Without the inspectors to ensure these workplaces are safe on a consistent basis, much of the job is left to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in the wake of a workplace accident, such as in this case. OSHA will have until early 2015 to compile a report on this accident and determine if any safety violations or negligence played a part in the worker's death. If so, the company could be held liable for the incident in civil court.

Source: Science Blog, "Not an 'accident': Stanley Thomas Wright, 47, suffers work-related asphyxiation at railyard in North Las Vegas," Celeste Monforton, Aug. 7, 2014

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