What Qualifies as A Hazardous Safety Condition?

FELA is the exclusive mechanism for railroad workers wanting to bring a compensation claim for their work-related injuries against the railroad company. While a railroad worker can file a FELA in either state or federal court, they must prove negligence on part of the employer to be able to collect the claim.

Unlike a workers’ compensation claim, the onus is on the claimant to provide evidence of the hazardous safety conditions resulting in their injuries. Additionally, the worker must also present evidence of the railroad company’s responsibility for those hazardous conditions.

Definition of a Hazardous Safety Condition Under FELA Law 

A recent district court observation in the case of Cody Ziparo v. CSX Transportation, Inc., under Federal Rail Safety Act, states that the plaintiff’s belief in a safety hazard must be objectively and subjectively reasonable. FELA law is quite clear that a railroad employee’s claim about a hazardous safety condition must be unbiased and based on facts.

Further, a railroad hazardous safety condition is deemed actionable by the court if that condition arose despite being within the control of the railroad company. FELA law considers non-work-related hazardous condition and a condition that is outside the purview and control of the company, as non-actionable.

A railroad employee’s claim of a hazardous condition is not valid if based on their subjective reaction to a condition at work that is not related to safety. However, a worker’s complaint as a reaction to a co-worker’s physical violence threats can be an exception.

Duties of a Railroad Company to Ensure Safe Working Conditions 

Let us talk about some of the things that a railroad company must ensure under FELA to fulfill its obligation in providing a safe workplace for its employees:

  • Provide adequate safety devices, tools, and equipment; and lay down guidelines for their proper maintenance. Ensure checks and balances to keep the workplace reasonably safe and hazard-free.
  • Issue adequate warning to employees regarding any workplace hazards and unsafe conditions, even where the employees should be reasonably aware of the hazard themselves.
  • Perform regular inspections at the workplace to ensure it is safe and free from any known or unknown hazardous conditions. A railroad company can be liable under FELA if it fails to discover, through a routine inspection, a potential safety hazard that eventually leads to personal injuries for a worker.

Duties of a Railroad Company to Ensure Workers’ Training & Supervision 

The railroad companies must ensure to equip their employees to be able to carry out their assigned work reasonably well. A railroad employer’s responsibilities towards their workers include:

  • Providing adequate training to workers corresponding to their responsibilities at work. It is the duty of the employer to make sure that every employee has the relevant training and experience required to safely perform their assigned job.
  • Ensuring suitable supervision of all activities and conditions to avoid any injuries to the employees. The responsibility to inspect and supervise the working conditions to minimize hazards comes under scrutiny when the employer’s failure to provide such supervision results in injuries to an employee.
  • Ensuring that the employees always adhere to all the safety guidelines. In addition to following all the federal safety regulations and standards, a railroad company must implement and observe its internal workplace safety protocols. The failure to do so may result in FELA violations.

Additional Duties of a Railroad Company 

Under FELA, the duties of a railroad company also include:

  • The duty to take appropriate precautions and put reasonable measures in place to ensure the safety of the employees against harmful acts like crimes or intentional offenses by others, including their co-workers
  • The duty to inhibit the adoption or application of work quotas that are irrational or arbitrary with respect to production or time goals
  • The duty to lend adequate and suitable assistance to employees to help them handle situations where the work assigned to them is beyond their abilities or physical limitations

How to Prove Flouting of Safety Regulations by Your Railroad Employer? 

You must provide evidence of negligence on the part of the railroad company to establish fault on their part. The railroad employer’s duty to provide you with a working environment devoid of hazardous safety conditions is sacrosanct, and cannot be evaded in any way.

The evidence you need to present to establish the railroad company’s negligence must prove at least one of these:

  • the railroad’s lack of due diligence in the given circumstances
  • the railroad’s lack of prudence and failure to affect a reasonable outcome
  • any clear wrongdoing or irresponsible action by the railroad, endangering the health and lives of railroad workers

Contact a Skillful Attorney with Competence in FELA Claims

You can file your FELA compensation claim directly with the railroad company or bring a lawsuit in federal or state court. The seasoned railroad accident attorneys at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn can help you or someone you know recover damages for injuries suffered in a railroad work-related accident.

To seek legal counsel from a proficient attorney who can investigate your claim and unearth credible proof of negligence, call us today at 800-752-0042 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.






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