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NTSB launches special investigation into Norfolk Southern's 'safety culture'

Announcement cites six "significant accidents" since December 2021.
Train Derailment Ohio
Posted at 9:09 PM, Mar 07, 2023

Citing six “significant accidents” involving Norfolk Southern since December 2021, the National Transportation Safety Board announced Tuesday that it is opening a special investigation into the railway company’s “organization and safety culture.”

“Given the number and significance of recent Norfolk Southern accidents, the NTSB also urges the company to take immediate action today to review and assess its safety practices, with the input of employees and others, and implement necessary changes to improve safety,” the NTSB said in a news release.

The bureau said it has already launched investigation teams for five recent accidents involving Norfolk Southern, including the fatal collision with a truck in Cleveland, Ohio on Tuesday.

According to the NTSB, "On Dec. 8, 2021, an employee for National Salvage and Service Corporation assigned to work with a Norfolk Southern work team replacing track was killed when the operator of a spike machine reversed direction and struck the employee in Reed, Pennsylvania."

In another incident, the bureau said that, "On Dec. 13, 2022, a Norfolk Southern trainee conductor was killed, and another conductor was injured, when the lead locomotive of a Norfolk Southern freight train struck a steel angle iron protruding from a gondola car on another Norfolk Southern freight train that was stopped on an adjacent track in Bessemer, Alabama."

And then, according to the bureau, "On Feb. 3, a Norfolk Southern freight train carrying hazardous materials derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The derailment resulted in a significant fire and hazardous materials release."

The agency said that on March 4, a 2.55-mile-long Norfolk Southern freight train derailed near Springfield, Ohio; and "On March 7, a Norfolk Southern employee was killed during a movement in Cleveland, Ohio."

According to the NTSB, part of the special investigation is also reviewing the Oct. 28, 2022 derailment in Sandusky of a Norfolk Southern train carrying paraffin wax that left a stretch of a popular roadway closed for months, until the weeks after the East Palestine derailment.

RELATED: Sandusky leaders say cooperation from Norfolk Southern improved after East Palestine train derailment

The NTSB said it is concerned that organizational factors may be involved in the accidents, including safety culture. The agency stated it will conduct an in-depth investigation into the safety practices and culture of the company and is already urging Norfolk Southern to improve safety immediately.

One day before the NTSB's announcement, Norfolk Southern released a six-point safety plan based on the preliminary findings of the NTSB investigation into the derailment.

A version of this story was originally published by Scripps News Cleveland in Cleveland, Ohio.