Railroad Injuries and the “Reasonably Safe” Workplace
Railroad work is dangerous work. Each year, thousands of railroad workers are injured and many die as a result of railroad accidents. According to National Safety Council data, there were 3216 rail employees injured on the job and 11 deaths among those employees in 2021. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is the federal agency responsible for keeping track of railroad accidents that occur every year. Each railroad is responsible for reporting to the FRA highway/rail grade crossing accidents, rail equipment accidents, and all occupationally-related injuries or diseases suffered by railroad employees.
The FRA assembles this data at the FRA Safety Data site. The FRA encourages workers to report unsafe conditions or procedures through the Confidential Close Call Reporting System. In theory, this system helps railroad workers by affording them anonymity in reporting these conditions while providing the railroads protection from FRA action for the unsafe condition. The goal is to provide the worker a reasonably safe place to work.
Despite these measures, railroad workers still get hurt. For over 100 years, the federal government has recognized this simple fact. In short, this is why the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) exists. The FELA sets a standard: Railroads must provide a reasonably safe workplace for all railroad workers. The law imposes liability on railroad employers for the harm that occurs when this obligation is not met.
There are many ways a railroad workplace can fall below this “reasonably safe” standard. For instance, a railroad workplace may not be reasonably safe because a switch fails to operate properly. Or, it may not be reasonably safe because there is a defect in a car or a locomotive – a broken grab iron or a broken seat for example. A railroad workplace also may not be reasonably safe when buildings are contaminated by asbestos or mold. Whatever the reason, when a railroad does not provide a reasonably safe place to work, they may be subject to FELA liability.
An experienced FELA attorney can identify the ways in which a railroad might fail to provide a reasonably safe place to work and obtain a fair financial recovery for railroad workers injured or made sick because of a railroad’s negligence. Call us today with any questions you may have about the safety of your railroad workplace.