CRIME: Omaha Railcar Cleaning Company And Its Owners Were Sentenced Today In Omaha For Violating Environmental And Worker Safety Laws That Resulted Into Two Workers’ Deaths In 2015.

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Steven Michael Braithwaite and Adam Thomas Braithwaite (NRCS) were convicted for knowing violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, (RCRA), involving hazardous waste and knowledge endangerment, knowing submissions of false documents to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration Steven Braithwaite will serve 30 months in prison and pay $100,000 in restitution for his role in the offenses. Adam Braithwaite will serve one year and one day in prison and pay $100,000 in restitution. In addition, NRCS and the individual defendants must serve five years of probation and pay a $21,000 fine.

According to court documents, NRCS workers were working inside and on top a rail tanker vehicle, removing petroleum residue. However, when flammable gasses in the tanker car ignited, it exploded. The blast resulted in two deaths and one injury. After receiving an inquiry from a customer in January 2015., NRCS accepted the job. The SDS for the product inside the railcar described it as “natural gasoline” and had a “severe class four flammability rating (the most severe rating). The SDS stated that natural gasoline could ignite at zero degrees Fahrenheit. It also contained benzene, a cancer hazard Despite not having performed a test for benzene or a high explosive gas level at the start of the job, NRCS sent two employees to the tanker car. Two employees started to remove the toxic and ignitable residue. A third employee assisted from outside. The third employee lifted buckets of waste through the top hatch, and deposited them in a regular dumpster. A spark ignited and caused the fatal explosion approximately one hour after the cleaning had begun.

Steven Braithwaite, the president and majority owner at NRCS, was responsible for all aspects of the business including worker safety and environmental issues. Adam Braithwaite, a vice president and minority owner of NRCS, was also responsible for all aspects of the business. He also dealt with worker and environmental safety.

As the defendants admit in their plea agreements OSHA officials conducted inspections of NRCS prior to the explosion and cited NRCS principals and NRCS for not complying with OSHA safety regulations regarding confined space entry. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act, rail tanker cars constitute “confined spaces”. Because they can be filled with unbreathable, toxic, explosive or other dangerous gases, confining spaces can pose a danger. Steven Braithwaite signed a February 5, 2015, written contract with NRCS. He claimed that NRCS had been testing benzene for a long time since July 2014.. This was a fabrication. OSHA went back to NRCS in March to perform a follow up inspection. Steven Braithwaite refused to allow the inspectors to inspect. Adam Braithwaite presented falsified documents to OSHA claiming to prove that NRCS had purchased equipment to test railcars for benzene, and had taken other safety precautions. NRCS was not taking these steps. Adam Braithwaite falsely stated that NRCS had purchased the benzene-testing equipment.

Despite knowing what was required, defendants failed to enforce worker safety standards, mishandled dangerous wastes violating RCRA, and knowingly submitted false documents during inspections to OSHA as a cover-up. Two of their workers were killed by their decisions. July Steven Braithwaite admitted to the charges 2-4. Adam Braithwaite pleaded guilty in the following counts: 8-9, 2-3, and 22. NRCS pleaded guilty 1 -21..

Every worker, even those who do dangerous jobs, has the right to a safe work environment,” stated Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim from the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. Two workers died at Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services due to the defendants’ inability to comply with the law. The sentences today provide justice for their families .”

Violations of worker safety standards and environmental standards are often dismissed as regulatory crimes. However, this case shows how important these regulations are,” stated Jan W. Sharp, U.S. attorney for the District of Nebraska. “If the defendants had complied with regulations they were aware of, nobody would have been in a train tanker containing toxic gases at explosive levels. They would have disposed of hazardous waste in regular dumpsters if they had followed the regulations. If they had followed regulations, two men would have gone home at the end of their workdays.”

The defendants’ decision to ignore environmental and worker safety regulations led to the tragic death of two workers,” said Acting Assistant Administrator Larry Starfield for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s sentencings send out a clear message that those who deliberately violate these laws will face consequences .”

Steven Braithwaite disregarded OSHA regulations and ignored safety protocols. They also provided false information to OSHA which led to the tragic loss of two lives,” stated Steven Grell, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Labor’s Office of InspectorGeneral Dallas Region. We will continue to work with OSHA and our law enforcement partners to hold accountable those who obstruct Department of Labor agencies from fulfilling their missions.”

“Steven and Adam Braithwaite chose to protect themselves by providing false documentation to OSHA after the death of two employees, making it appear they had followed safety requirements, but in fact, willfully ignored warnings indicating a risk of explosion and sent these two men into a deadly situation,” said Regional Solicitor Christine Heri of the U.S. Department of Labor- Chicago. “The Department of Labor is committed in bringing justice to the families of these workers as well as to holding employers accountable to their legal obligation to safeguard workers on the job

The case was investigated by the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Counsel Krishna S. Dighe of EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and Assistant U.S. attorney Donald J. Kleine of District of Nebraska.

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