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Railcar cleaning firm admits safety lapses related to worker deaths

tank cars

The owners of a railcar cleaning service pleaded guilty Monday in federal court in Omaha, Nebraska, to charges stemming from an investigation into a 2015 railcar explosion that killed two workers, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services LLC; its president and co-owner, Steven Michael Braithwaite; and its vice president and co-owner, Adam Thomas Braithwaite, were charged with conspiracy, violating worker safety standards resulting in worker deaths, violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and submitting false documents to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, according to the DOJ.

Omaha, Nebraska-based NRCS cleans rail tank cars, a task that involves sending workers inside the cars to scrape and remove various commodities, including gasoline, ethanol, petroleum by-products, pesticides, herbicides and food-grade products.

According to court documents, NRCS failed to implement worker safety standards and then tried to cover that up during an inspection by OSHA. In addition, the company mishandled hazardous wastes removed from tank cars during the cleaning process. The 2015 event that prompted the investigation occurred when NRCS employees were sent into a tank car containing highly flammable residue that exploded, killing two workers and injuring a third.

The DOJ said that on “various occasions prior to the explosion, OSHA officials conducted regulatory inspections during which they notified the principals of NRCS that NRCS was in violation of OSHA safety regulations concerning confined space entries.”

The defendants could not immediately be reached for comment. They are scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 25.