Railroad Injuries

Railroad Injuries and Occupational Illnesses: What Workers Need to Know

Working for a railroad carries significant risks of both immediate traumatic injuries as well as long-term occupational illnesses. Being aware of the hazards and your rights is crucial for Alabama railroad workers.

The Hazards of Working for the Railroad

Working on a railroad in Alabama involves various safety hazards and risks that can lead to both sudden traumatic injuries as well as the gradual onset of occupational illnesses. Some of the most common hazards include:

  • Working around heavy equipment and machinery like trains, tracks, signals, cranes, etc. Risks include being struck by or caught between heavy equipment.
  • Exposure to extreme noise and vibration from engines, horns, braking systems, etc. can cause hearing loss over time.
  • Working long shifts out in the elements exposes workers to harsh weather and temperature extremes. This can lead to health issues like heat stroke, hypothermia, and frostbite.
  • Working around hazardous chemicals and diesel fumes when handling freight and cleaning rail cars. This can cause respiratory issues.
  • Performing physically demanding tasks like lifting, pulling, and carrying heavy objects often in awkward positions. This leads to back injuries, hernias, sprains, and strains.
  • Risk of electrocution when working around high-voltage electrical lines and equipment.
  • Working at height when repairing bridges, signals, and roofs. This risk of falls that can seriously injure or kill.
  • Working near moving trains exposes workers to the risk of being struck and run over. Hundreds are killed this way annually.
  • Long commutes and erratic schedules lead to driver fatigue, raising the risk of motor vehicle accidents.

The Most Common Injuries for Railroad Workers

Due to these many hazards, railroad workers often sustain serious injuries and occasional fatalities while on the job. Some of the most frequently occurring railroad injuries include:

  • Cumulative trauma injuries to the back, neck, knees, and shoulders from years of wear and tear doing repetitive manual labor, lifting, and operating heavy machinery.
  • Fractures and broken bones are common when workers slip, trip, fall, or are struck by heavy objects or equipment. Hands, feet, and hips are most vulnerable.
  • Head injuries and concussions from being struck on the head by equipment or falling objects, electrocution, or slip and fall accidents. Some prove fatal.
  • Internal organ damage, spinal cord injuries, amputations, and crushing injuries when body parts get caught under or between rail cars and locomotives or heavy machinery.
  • Respiratory issues like silicosis from inhaling toxic diesel fumes and dust around rail yards for prolonged periods.
  • Being run over or struck by trains and rail cars leads to massive trauma and usually death. Hundreds die this way each year.
  • Vision loss from metal shards or chemical splashes into the eyes. Hearing loss from constant loud noise.

Prompt medical care is vital after any railroad accident to mitigate the effects of the injury and maximize the chances of recovery. Seeking experienced legal counsel also helps secure compensation for medical bills, lost income, and pain/suffering.

Occupational Illnesses Affecting Railroad Employees

In addition to sudden traumatic injuries, railroad workers also face elevated risks of developing certain occupational illnesses over time due to chronic exposure to toxins in the workplace. These include:

  • Noise-induced hearing loss from constant exposure to loud noise above 85 decibels from locomotive engines, horns, rail car coupling, etc.
  • Respiratory diseases like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer triggered by diesel exhaust fumes, silica dust, and asbestos around rail yards.
  • Cumulative trauma disorders of the back, hips, knees, neck, and shoulders from years of repetitive motions, heavy lifting, vibrations, and awkward positions.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis in wrists/hands from repetitive motions and vibration while operating machinery and tools.
  • Cardiovascular diseases like hypertension, heart attacks, strokes, etc. from chronic stress, and irregular shifts interfering with circadian rhythms.
  • Mental illness including anxiety, depression, and PTSD from a demanding unpredictable work environment and after experiencing trauma.
  • Chemical poisoning and neurotoxicity from solvents, fuels, paints, and herbicides used around rail yards absorbed via skin or vapors inhaled.
  • Vision loss from metal shards, chemical splashes, and years of exposure to pollutants that damage eye tissue.

Many of these serious chronic illnesses can be avoided or mitigated via safe workplace practices and controls. Companies must be held accountable for negligence that leads to occupational disease through legal action.

Steps to Prevent Injuries and Illnesses on the Job

Both employers and employees play a role in preventing railroad injuries and illnesses. Important safety practices include:

  • Wearing proper PPE at all times like safety goggles, helmets, reflective vests, hearing protection, etc.
  • Following all safety protocols around machinery, tracks, and rail yards. Never take shortcuts.
  • Maintaining situational awareness and moving cautiously around equipment and tracks. Avoid distractions.
  • Taking regular safety training refreshers and skills evaluations. Stay up to date on best practices.
  • Reporting unsafe conditions to supervisors immediately so hazards can be addressed.
  • Getting regular medical checkups to spot early signs of occupational illness.
  • Stretching, warming up properly before shifts to avoid muscle strains.
  • Staying hydrated and taking adequate nutrition/rest breaks to avoid fatigue.
  • Rotating tasks to avoid overuse injuries from repetition.
  • Companies must provide ergonomically designed equipment and tools to minimize strain.
  • Strictly control toxic chemical exposures using ventilation, PPE, storage procedures, etc.

Prevention is key because injuries incurred on the railroad often have permanent, life-altering consequences. Safety practices protect workers, employers, and the general public alike.

Your Rights to Compensation and Medical Care after an Alabama Railroad Injury

If you are injured on the job as a railroad worker, you have legal rights to medical care and lost income compensation under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). An experienced FELA attorney can help you seek maximum damages by demonstrating:

  • Employer negligence – companies must maintain safe premises and equipment. Injuries often result from safety violations.
  • Specific injuries and compensable losses incurred – catalog all medical bills, lost wages, and calculated loss of future earnings.
  • Impact on your quality of life – document how the injury affects your life, relationships, the ability to participate in activities you enjoy, and mental health.
  • Need for ongoing future care – injuries such as amputations, head trauma, and respiratory disease often require lifelong treatment.

Do not trust the railroad to look out for you. Consult an attorney immediately after any job-related injury to protect your legal rights.


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