Nearly one year ago, a train derailment in East Palestine spilled toxins onto the land, water, and into the air. A new rule by the Federal Railroad Administration has been issued to protect the workers hauling the hazardous chemicals.

The new final rule issued by the FRA on Thursday comes directly as a result of the derailment in East Palestine, where vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, isobutylene, ethylene glycol, and ethylhexyl acrylate spilled from the derailed cars.

The final rule goal is to offer safety for employees on freight trains transporting hazardous materials by providing protective gear for face and neck coverage with respiratory protection. 

The only other safety bill as a direct result of the toxic derailment introduced to Congress, The Railway Safety Act of 2023, sits stalled since March.

The new rule created by the FRA also mandates that the equipment is maintained and properly working and trains its employees to use the breathing equipment properly.

 FRA Administrator Amit Bose said, “As FRA continues to advance rail safety and address concerns related to the transportation of hazardous materials, this new rule will implement needed protections for the workers who transport these products around the country.”

Bose added, “The safety needs and benefits of EEBAs have long been established by past tragedies and research, and this rule will provide rail employees with the knowledge and tools to minimize potential dangers.” 

The National Transportation Safety Board is expected to release its investigation into the Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, which led to a vent and burn of a known carcinogen from the derailed cars.
While casualties or fatalities caused by inhalation of hazmat are rare, it has happened. Train crew members died in 2004 and 2005 from inhaling chlorine gas during rail accidents.

Adding breathing apparatuses to trains was first introduced in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. The rule also addresses similar recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board.