Railroad workers probably face the harshest and most hazardous working conditions in the country. They often have to stand in exhausting positions and work under extreme temperatures. They also have to use dangerous machines and materials besides these difficulties. All of this creates a high-risk working environment. Additionally, there are long-term health risks associated with the potential exposure to toxic chemicals and substances in the railroad working environment.
Things that Make Railroads a Hazardous Workplace
Railroads are dangerous workplaces. Rail vehicles can be a hazard to non-railroad occupations as well. Fatalities and serious injuries usually occur from activities performed by railroad workers on a daily basis. Transportation accidents are responsible for maximum number of railroad fatalities. This can be from falling in, from or on railway vehicles and train crashes. In addition, pedestrian workers can also be struck by railway or construction vehicles. Other hazards include electrocutions and coming in contact with harmful objects.
At-Risk Employees in the Railroad Industry
There are three primary types of workers in the railroad industry – locomotive drivers, railroad car painters, and railroad transit workers. Risks faced by these individual categories is as follows:
- Locomotive drivers
Locomotive drivers are exposes to loud noises and are at a particular risk of sensorineural hearing loss. This can cause damage to the nerve from the ear to the brain or the inner ear. Further, they are open to magnetic fields that may induce genetic damages in the blood lymphocytes and other areas of the body.
- Railroad painters
Another high-risk category of workers is painters employed in the railroad industry. They are subject to chromosomal aberrations because of extensive exposure to solvents and paints. These contain highly harmful chemicals that are in particular used in the railroad industry. Most solvents lead to the dysfunction of peripheral nerves or neuropathy. This can result in weakness or numbness. Motor distal latencies and abnormally slow sensory and motor conduction velocities may also occur.
- Transit workers
Transit workers are the third category prone to railroad hazards. They are vulnerable to genotoxic chemical components being transported in trains that can result in the development of chromosomal aberration. Railroad transit workers are at a special risk of developing genetic mutations and deletions. They may be at a higher risk of developing Carpal Tunnel syndrome because of these genetic modifications as well.
Risk of Collision with Trains
Often, trains cannot stop in time to avoid collision because of their fast speed travels. There may not be adequate signals or signs to alert the drivers of potential railroad workers at the crossings or working on lines. Train conductors have a particularly hard time when visibility is low. They are unable to see objects and people on the tracks when night falls.
There are several external issues that play a major role in trains hitting people or colliding with vehicles. This can be errors in judgment of the train operator, faults in construction, issues with the rails, mistakes made, weather, and electronic malfunctions. Railroad workers have to take extra caution when working in or around railroad intersections because of the added risk factors.
Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos was used primarily in the railroad industry because of its heat resistance and strength. Majority of railroad equipment and structures face high temperatures and friction. Asbestos was used for fire prevention and heavy use in railroad products from at least the 1930s until the 1980s. Asbestos was used routinely in construction products within rail passenger cars, engine rooms, boilers, and electrical panels.
Workers of railroad companies have been exposed to these asbestos-containing products. Lung cancer, mesothelioma cancer, asbestos cancer and asbestosis are a few health risks that railroad workers face. Researchers in a study conducted from 2001 to 2009 found that railroad workers were at a higher risk of mesothelioma mortality as opposed to the general population.
There are certain studies that indicate older employees may be at a higher risk of developing asbestos related illnesses if they worked on steam locomotives. Locomotives used to be powered by steam before the 1950s instead of diesel. Asbestos was commonly used in steam-powered equipment that placed workers at a greater risk of occupation-related exposure.
Railroad Workers can Seek Compensation
Railroad employees and their families may be eligible for seeking compensation following an asbestos diagnosis or death. Compensation can allow victims and their families with loss of income, treatment costs and more. You may be eligible to seek compensation through Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA).
These civil action lawsuits can be filed against the employer for negligence resulting in asbestos exposure. However, claimants are required to have a negligence-related injury after wrongful exposure. Many claimants were awarded compensation after filing successful lawsuits under FELA.
Speak with a Railroad Injury Attorney Today
Compensation for railroad accidents and injuries can be claimed through a personal injury claim under FELA. The experienced FELA attorneys at Shapiro, Appleton, Washburn & Sharp have the necessary knowledge and resources required to pursue a strong railroad injury claim on behalf of the victims and their families. Get in touch with us today by calling at 800-752-0042 or complete our online contact form.