FELA and Railroad Signal Maintainers and Maintenance Way Workers

Railroad signal maintainers and maintenance way workers face hazards on the job, but it’s the daily exposure to hazardous substances that pose the most risk to these workers’ health and safety. Each day, these railroad employees work with and around diesel-powered track equipment that releases toxic exhaust fumes into the air they are breathing. Track equipment also disturbs ballast regulators, which then creates silica-containing dust clouds.

These dangers were even more prevalent for former railroad workers because of all the asbestos that was used in the equipment and materials railroad employees worked with and around during their years with the railroad companies. Railroad signal boxes were filled with asbestos signal boards. It was in these boards that signal maintainers would drill holes in order to run wires to signal relays. The signal maintainers had no idea they were being exposed to deadly asbestos dust with every hole they drilled.


Over the past several decades, there have been multiple investigations conducted by the federal government to determine the hazards that railroad signal maintainers and maintenance way workers face.

In 1989, an investigation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) failed to inform signal maintainers of the health risks they were facing from the asbestos dust from the signal boxes. OSHA also cited Conrail for failing to provide workers with respiratory protection from that dust and disposing of asbestos waste per OSHA regulations.

In the early 1990s, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigated the potential respiratory hazards that employees of CSX Transportation, Incorporated (CSXT) and  Norfolk Southern Railroad in Virginia and Tennessee faced.

Investigators from the NIOSH gathered samples from employees and machine cabs to measure silica dust concentrations. They concluded that railroad workers were being exposed to hazardous amounts of silica from railroad ballast, with the majority of samples far exceeding the recommended exposure limits recommended by both the NIOSH and OSHA. While employees who worked directly with ballast brooms, dumping machines, regulators, and tampers had the most exposure, other employees that worked on or near the tracks were also being exposed because of the size of the silica dust clouds being created.

Illnesses Suffered by Railroad Workers

At Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, our Virginia FELA attorneys know there are a wide array of illnesses and diseases that current and former railroad workers can develop due to the toxic substances they have been exposed to on the job. Asbestos, diesel exhaust fumes, and silica can cause horrible health issues, many of these conditions being terminal:

  • Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia
  • Acute Myeloid Leukemia
  • Asbestosis
  • Bladder cancer
  • Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Colon cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Fibrosis
  • Laryngeal cancer
  • Lung cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Multiple Myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  • Silicosis
  • Stomach cancer

Contact a Virginia FELA Law Firm

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, call Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to speak with one of our skilled Virginia FELA attorneys and find out what legal options you may have. Our legal team can help you with filing a claim for damages even if the company that was responsible for exposing you to the asbestos is out of business or has filed for bankruptcy. We can investigate your case to determine how you were exposed, as well as identify what products or materials you were exposed to caused you to develop the disease.



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