For immediate release: Thursday, November 13, 2008
Contact: Matt Losak, 301-431-5453

National Labor College Awarded $1.3 Million Federal Grant to Train Railway Workers Transporting Hazardous Materials

Training Vital to Protect Workers and Communities from Disaster

Silver Spring, MD— The United States Department of Transportation awarded the National Labor College (NLC) a Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) grant for $1,351,060 to fund an intensive program to train railway workers in the handling and transporting of hazardous cargo including dangerous chemicals and radioactive materials. The grant was authorized by the Hazardous Materials Transportation Safety and Security Reauthorization Act of 2005.

“Tens of thousands of pounds of highly toxic, hazardous materials are carried daily by rail through cities and towns across North America,” said William E. Scheuerman, NLC president. “With this grant the NLC will be able to expand our railway HAZMAT program to increase critically important training that can help save the lives of railway workers and citizens in communities across North America.”

The NLC has already trained more than 25,000 railway workers and peer trainers in hazardous materials transportation and chemical emergency response since 1991. Workers are trained in OSHA and DOT procedures, different levels of response and worker protection through intensive instruction, drills and full-gear simulations as well as HAZMAT identification.  The PHMSA grant expands the existing peer training network by focusing exclusively on training of trainers who will in turn train thousands of railway workers over the next 12 months.

NLC professor Henry Jajuga, who has more than 30 years of rail and HAZMAT training experience, will oversee the implementation of the grant. Key elements will include developing a train-the-trainer curriculum including specialized course materials and instructor guides, online courses materials, recruiting upwards of 140 students and implementing an aggressive national instruction program to exponentially expand the direct HAZMAT training regionally. The first training class is scheduled to begin in early October on the NLC campus in Silver Spring, Maryland.

NLC officials point out that the grant follows a November 2006 report written by NLC
rail safety expert faculty, Ruth Ruttenberg and Brenda Cantrell,rging increased funding for thousands of railway workers who lack even the basic training in handling the more than 800,000 shipments of highly dangerous materials transported on American railways every day. According to the report, quality training for railway workers handling HAZMATs is essential and inadequate. The report goes on to warn: “Just one 90-ton rail car of chlorine, whether involved in an accident or act of terrorism, could create a toxic cloud 40 miles long and 10 miles wide and could kill as many as 100,000 people in 30 minutes.  One estimate of a worst case scenario for a nuclear transportation accident in an urban area could cost --- in cleanup, evacuation, and business loss –from several billion to several tens of billions of dollars.” The report was funded by the Citizens for Rail Safety and issued at an event held at the National Press Club.

Established as a training center by AFL-CIO in 1969 to strengthen union member education and organizing skills, the NLC is now the nation’s only accredited higher education institution devoted exclusively to educating union leaders, members and activists. The NLC became a degree granting college in 1997. The college is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an independent, regional accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.