No, there wasn’t an alien invasion on campus last month, but there were certainly men and women in blue and green suits surrounded by caution tape and orange cones.

On March 23, 22 students participated in a hands-on, simulated hazmat response as the capstone of their Hazardous Materials Transportation/Chemical Emergency Response training. Guided by peer instructors who are full-time rail workers from affiliated rail unions, students learn problem-solving skills from an experienced union leader or member.

For student Simone Roundtree, the day meant that she was one step closer to achieving her dream of being a safety instructor. Read more about Simone’s journey here.

Trained Workers Save Lives
Training is available to members of all rail unions. Attendees of this week-long class included students from: American Railway & Airway Supervisors Association (ARASA), Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes (BMWED) and Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) Divisions of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), and United Transportation Union (UTU).

In one of the exercises, students learned how to respond to the spill of a 55-gallon drum of sulfuric acid. In another, they learned to contain a benzene leak. Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid, which is among the 20 most widely used chemicals in this country and is known to cause cancer.

“Whether they’ve been on the rail road for 4 years or 20 years, the students in the class were shocked at all the chemicals that they might have been exposed to while at work,” said Simone.

Training for First-Responders
Because rail workers have the potential for exposure to hazardous materials during a derailment, track repair, or while working on or repairing rail cars, they may be responsible for initiating the emergency response process and are, therefore, a first responder.

Unfortunately, most railroad carriers don’t provide workers with adequate training to deal with a chemical spill. Students leave the classes passionate about sharing the knowledge they’d learned with their coworkers back at the railroad.

NLC provides a fully online bachelor’s degree in emergency management for first-responders and emergency personnel.

NLC has been providing training for rail workers since 1990 when it received a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Students include locomotive engineers, conductors, operators, truck drivers, mechanical supervisors, and mechanical engineers.

Visit the Rail Workers Hazmat Program’s website for an up-to-date list of the remaining trainings this year.