Railroad Cumulative Trauma

Posted In: Employment Law,Environmental Law & Toxic Torts

Years of hard work in the railroad industry can lead to the buildup of cumulative trauma throughout the course of a worker’s career. Cumulative trauma involves the excessive wear and tear upon muscle groups, tendons, and sensitive nerves in the body. Damages sustained from cumulative trauma may lead to CTD—cumulative trauma disorder. CTD can precipitate the development of serious injuries, including cancer and respiratory disorders. 

Railroad workers who sustain CTD injuries as a result of unsafe working conditions and employer negligence may be eligible for compensation under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). The United States Congress passed FELA in 1908 to reduce the accident rate among railroad workers and promote safe practices throughout the industry. Though conditions have improved, thousands of workers are still injured on the job every year from preventable incidents. FELA entitles railroad workers an avenue to seek compensation for the costs associated with treating railroad injuries and the impact these damages have had on the worker’s career and quality of life. 

In short, railroad carriers have a responsibility to maintain the health and safety of their workers, which includes adequate training and the provision of protective equipment to reduce the risk of trauma and the exposure to other life-threatening conditions during the course of employment.

Research has reflected common environmental factors that contribute to the development of CTD conditions, which include but are not limited to:

  • Physical Activity: Heavy lifting of machinery or squatting and kneeling for long periods of time can place significant amounts of stress on the body. 
  • Repetitive Motions: Railroad workers perform several repetitive movements that can lead to stress injuries, such as operating switches and controls or coupling and uncoupling train cars.
  • Exposure to Toxic Chemicals: Workers are constantly exposed to toxic chemicals such as petroleum products on the job. 
  • Noise: Works are exposed to excessive noise levels on a daily basis in the railroad industry, and these levels are often above those considered safe by organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  • Vibrations: Workers endure violent vibrations during their shifts, which occur both on and off of trains.  In fact, many workers endure these vibrations while similarly experiencing the additional factors above during maintenance work on railroad tracks.  

Consistent exposure to high levels of stress and overexertion on the job places workers at an increased risk for developing life-long injuries. Sprains, strains, tears, fractures, and soft tissue damage are common damages associated with CTD. 

Moreover, workers in this industry are regularly exposed to harmful contaminants, including: 

  • Creosote, found in railroad ties
  • Oil, gasoline, and other petroleum fuels
  • Cleaning solvents 
  • Herbicides
  • Fossil fuel products 
  • Asbestos 

To become eligible for a FELA claim, workers must be able to prove that the railroad carrier:

  • Has exercised a lack of due care under the circumstance; or 
  • Has failed to act in the manner of a reasonable and prudent person under the circumstances; or
  • Has conducted itself in a manner that a reasonable person would not under the existing circumstances.

Exceptions to these circumstances include the existence of a violation of the Federal Safety Appliance Act or the Boiler Inspection Act. 

Slater Slater Schulman LLP is dedicated to the representation of individuals who have developed a CTD injury in connection with their railroad employment.

If you or someone you love has been injured as a result of their railroad employment, please contact Slater Slater Schulman LLP for a free consultation by filling out the form on this page or by calling our office at (800) 251-6990.

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