A Nebraska railcar cleaning company and its executive officers have been charged with violating worker safety standards which directly led to the deaths of two employees.
A grand jury meeting in Omaha handed down the 22-count indictment against Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services, president and owner Stephen Michael Braithwaite, and vice president and co-owner Adam Thomas Braithwaite.
The charges range from violating worker safety standards resulting worker deaths to submitting false documents to a federal agency.
NRCS and its officers are accused of failing to implement worker safety standards and then trying to cover it up during an inspection by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Federal prosecutors accuse the defendants of mishandling hazardous wastes removed from rail tanker cars during the cleaning process.
“Protecting the health and safety of American workers at hazardous job sites is of paramount importance,” Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood said in a written statement. “The defendants in this case failed to live up to that responsibility, even falsifying documents to evade worker safety requirements. Tragically, employees at the defendants’ facility lost their lives while working in these unsafe conditions. Today’s indictment shows that the Department of Justice will prosecute those who knowingly seek to thwart federal laws that protect the safety of American workers.”
Federal prosecutors allege NRCS entered into a written agreement stating it had been testing for benzene since 2014. They further allege Steve Braithwaite turned OSHA inspectors away in March of 2015 when they attempted to conduct a follow-up inspection, then falsified documents claiming equipment had been purchased to test the contents of railcars for benzene and that other safety precautions had been taken.
On April 14th of 2015, a railcar ignited while being cleaned by NRCS employees, killing two and injuring a third.
The indictment alleges NRCS failed to test waste to determine if they were hazardous, so they could properly be disposed prior to April of 2015.