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Train derailments prompt DOT emergency order, safety advisory

There is a serious oil boom occurring in our neighboring state o f North Dakota. The fracking occurring in Bakken has helped increase the amount of U.S. crude oil production. In 2008, there were 5 million barrels produced each day. That number is expected to increase to 8.5 million barrels by the end of this year.

The vast amount of oil may be extracted elsewhere, but it is transported by train across the United States. These train tracks run through small towns and major cities alike, including ones in Minnesota, that have been described as "moving pipelines" by some accident investigators. These "pipelines" aren't as secure as we might think. In fact, there have been nine major oil train derailments since March 2013.

These train accidents, some of which involved a number of fatal injuries, have prompted the Transportation Department to issue an emergency order and a safety advisory. Even though lawmakers are working hard on new, permanent safety standards, regulators felt more immediate action needed to be taken.

The workers at the loading site and the final destination are aware of the hazardous material that is being transported, but emergency management officials in all those states that it passes through don't necessarily have the same information. The emergency order requires that railroads inform the necessary officials of not only the fact that it is being transported through their jurisdiction but also the volume that is being transported.

The safety advisory urges railroads to use the safest cars possible in their fleet to transport the oil. In the accidents mentioned above, many cars have ruptured in collisions that occurred at speeds as low as or even less than 30 miles per hour. Using the safest possible cars may not prevent accidents from occurring, but officials hope that should another occur, it would lessen the severity of the consequences.

Railroad workers are often the first to suffer harm that ranges from crushing injuries from falling objects to toxic exposure and everything between. These workers are often left to fight on their own for the compensation necessary to allow them to heal. An attorney well versed in handling Federal Employers' Liability Act cases will put the injured worker in the spotlight to ensure that their needs are met.

Source: Star Tribune, "Federal government issues emergency order requiring states be informed of oil train shipments," Joan Lowy, May 7, 2014

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