While there are many dangerous things about working for a railroad, the biggest danger may surprise you. It is not any of the equipment or the actual travel along the rails. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the biggest danger for rail workers is fatigue.
One of the reasons why workers are so tired is because they work very long hours with little time off. In addition, the job can be quite stressful, which only adds to the fatigue. Work schedules may also be irregular, which intereferes with sleep patterns and has a negative effect on the body and mind.
Being tired can be a huge issue when you are operating or managing trains. Some recent accidents have even been contributed to workers falling asleep on the job. There are also issues with sleep disorders that lead to fatigue.
Unfortunately, railroad corporations insist on unrealistic productivity goals and overwork their employees to the point of exhaustion. These corporations impose mandatory availability requirements such that employees who need time off due to being overworked will simply be fired if they don’t show up when ordered to do so.
There have been recommendations for sleep disorder screenings to be mandatory. In addition, safety recommendations include forcing the railroads to provide more regular schedules and additional safety training to alert crews to issues with fatigue. However, even though multiple common sense recommendations have been made no direct regulations have been created as a result.
Any step towards recognizing the severe issue of fatigue on the rails can help to prevent future accidents and save lives. This information is for education only and is not intended to be legal advice.