Both the implementation of the railways in California and the maintenance of their daily operations rank among the greatest feats of human engineering and ingenuity. If you have ever worked in the railroad industry, then you probably know that the immense forces involved do not always succumb to the systems designed to control them. In short: Accidents happen.
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.
Railroad employees face a greater risk of injury than workers in most other professions. This is why Congress enacted the Federal Employers Liability Act in 1908. The government provides this coverage to all railroad employees around the country because such workers are not covered by any state workers compensation laws.
The freight railroads would have the public believe that operating massive freight trains with a "one-man crew" is perfectly safe.
Everyone is aware of the laws regarding using mobile devices when driving a vehicle on California roadways. However, are there any rules for workers on trains? These are also vehicles, but traditional road laws do not apply because they are not traveling on roadways. According to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, the Federal Railroad Administration has set guidelines for mobile use for railroad workers operating a train.
The Federal Employers Liability Act is a special law that offers protection to railroad workers. Because it is a federal law, it will protect you if you work in California or any other state. You may wonder why there is a special law for railroad workers and why this is not covered in the same way other work injuries are. Looking at the history of FELA can help explain.
Trains are a convenient form of transportation for many people. They allow for travel across great distances at fast speeds and significantly reduce commute times. Many people believe they are a safer alternative to driving and riding in cars and buses. However, trains do not eliminate the risks associated with transportation-related accidents. Trains do not have the same protective structures and safety features cars have. When train accidents happen, the results are often catastrophic. Passengers are likely to sustain serious injuries and die.
Working on California railroads is a dangerous job. There are many ways you could be injured and many types of injuries. That is why safety is so important. Understanding all the safety regulations will help, but it also is beneficial to be aware of what dangers are lurking.
There are many dangers on the job for railroad workers in California. However, some are easier to see than others. One such danger that has not really been given the attention it requires is diesel fume exposure. According to the American Cancer Society, exposure to diesel exhaust fumes may cause lung cancer. For a railroad worker, this is a serious concern because of long-term, excessive exposure to exhaust fumes. In fact, railroad workers are among some of the most exposed workers.
Earlier in the year, two separate plaintiffs sued BNSF Railroad Co. in Montana for injuries that took place outside of the state. Neither of the plaintiffs lived in Montana, and BNSF is based in Texas. The Montana Supreme Court had ruled that the lawsuit was allowable in the state regardless, citing both the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) and state law in Montana. But the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed, voting 8-1 to reverse the lower court's ruling.