California rail line fined for worker deaths

SAN FRANCISCO - Workplace safety officials fined a San Francisco Bay Area commuter rail line $210,000 on Thursday over the deaths of two of its workers on tracks.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit agency workers - Christopher Sheppard, 58, and Laurence Daniels, 66 - were not qualified to do the track inspection work they were performing, the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health said.

Cal OSHA also found a trainee was at the controls of the train that struck the men, and a procedure in effect to keep the workers safe was inadequate.

BART said Sheppard and Daniels were working under a practice that made them solely responsible for their safety. The agency later changed those rules, requiring trains to slow down, stop or change course as they approach track workers.

"Employers in California must comply with safety standards to protect their employees, and diligence is vital in hazardous working conditions," Department of Industrial Relations director Christine Baker, whose agency oversees Cal OSHA, said in a statement.

Sheppard and Daniels were struck and killed in October while BART workers were on strike.

BART said in a statement that it had corrected the safety concerns raised by the state.

"Cal/OSHA has informed BART these changes correct the concerns which are at the heart of their citations" BART General Manager Grace Crunican said in a statement.

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