In 2014, the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Research, Development & Technology started working with the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association to develop a Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) to improve safety culture on short line and regional railroads. The SLSI began assessments of the safety culture at various short line and regional railroads across the United States. The safety culture of a railroad is vitally important to worker safety as the FRA’s research has found that a strong safety culture can result in less frequent and less severe accidents.

These safety culture assessments evaluate:

  • Approachability of management
  • Whether the railroad makes continuous strides toward improvement
  • Management response to safety concerns
  • Ability to discuss safety concerns with coworkers
  • Providing personal protective gear
  • Recognition of safe work practices
  • Job specific training
  • New hire training
  • Hazmat Exercise and Drills
  • Leadership and management training

As the FRA notes, there are some railroads that do not have formal training for new hires, specific jobs, or for management to become effective leaders on safety. Similarly, there is often pressure applied to workers to get an assigned task done quickly, without a focus on safe methods of completing each task.

The FRA has the ability to regulate these short line railroads, and even recently shut down a short line railroad operating in Oklahoma for its “complete disregard for the safety of the public.” The FRA noted that the short line did not maintain records and allowed locomotives to be operated by persons not properly qualified as engineers. This “cascade of failures” resulted in the emergency order discontinuing the short line’s operations.

The FRA has many programs aimed at addressing safety culture and violations of federal regulations at short lines, but injuries still occur. Often, short line railroad workers are left without workers’ compensation and are unsure if they have any recovery options. The Federal Employers Liability Act applies to many of the workers at the nearly 700 short lines throughout the United States. Analyzing whether the FELA applies can be complex and an experienced railroad attorney can assist you in determining if you have a potential claim for your injuries. Check out our information on railroads that are covered by the FELA here (about 1/3 of the way down the page), and contact us today for a free consultation.