NTSB Report on Deadly Incident in Castroville, Texas

by | Apr 20, 2023 | Industrial Accident, Train Accident, Wrongful Death

The National Transportation Safety Board has released its report on the September 22, 2021 incident when an equipment operator was struck and killed by a suspended load of steel grating material in Castroville, Texas.  The contract worker was employed by W.T. Byler Company.  During the incident, the worker was assisting a Union Pacific crew with replacing timbers on a railroad bridge.

The NTSB’s report notes that the worker was using a railroad maintenance machine:

The accident RMM was a Caterpillar mini hydraulic excavator that had been outfitted with retractable railroad wheels by Ballast Tools Equipment (BTE) so that it could operate as a rail-mounted RMM. The machine was equipped with a standard boom and stick for lifting materials over the front of the machine and had a lifting capacity rating of 6,549 pounds. Various work heads could be attached to the stick, such as grapples, digging buckets, and clamping attachments; a clamping work head attachment was selected for this job.

At the time, W.T. Byler did not have policies or rules related to transporting suspended loads with RMMs.  This incident shows the importance of using appropriate equipment for every job.  The report explains:

Equipment specifications for the clamping work head attachment indicated that the attachment was specifically designed for use with single crossties, not steel grating panels. By using the clamping work head to move steel grating panels, the operator was not performing the work in accordance with equipment specifications. W.T. Byler now prohibits the use of the clamping work head attachment to move the panels and has hired two safety professionals dedicated to railroad projects.

The probable case was found to be:

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of the September 22, 2021, equipment operator fatality was the use of a roadway maintenance machine to move a load of steel grating panels suspended in front of the machine with a clamping work head attachment that was not designed for use with such a load.

Companies, supervisors, and workers may not be fully aware of the hazards of operating equipment.  As a result, they may not have implemented proper policies and procedures to minimize risks, or ensure that equipment is only used as recommended by the manufacturer.  One mechanism to safely evaluate and prepare for risks is through the use of a Job Safety Analysis (“JSA”) or Risk Assessment, which is standard in the industry.  When this does not occur, it can result in catastrophic personal injury or death.  In a JSA, each step of the job is examined to identify potential hazards and to recommend the safest way to perform the work in order to minimize those risks.  According to OSHA:

A job hazard analysis is a technique that focuses on job tasks as a way to identify hazards before they occur. It focuses on the relationship between the worker, the task, the tools, and the work environment. Ideally, after you identify uncontrolled hazards, you will take steps to eliminate or reduce them to an acceptable risk level.

Spagnoletti Law Firm has attorneys licensed in Texas, Florida, and New York.  We have previously handled multiple cases involving train accidents.  Our attorneys have the experience and the skills needed to aggressively represent the families of loved ones who have lost their lives or been seriously injured in an accident.  The experienced accident attorneys at Spagnoletti Law Firm can help you understand your rights if you or a loved one was involved in an accident involving a train. Please contact us online or call 713-804-9306 or to learn more about your legal rights.