Injuries and fatalities befall on-duty railroad employees every year. However, these have decreased in the past 29 years. Employee fatalities have fallen from a high of 40 in 1990 to a low of nine in 2019, and injuries have fallen from a high of 20,970 in 1990 to a low of 3,856 in 2019.
As these statistics have improved for railroad workers, so too has their ability to receive protection and compensation.
In 1908, when Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act, thousands of railroad workers employed nationwide gained protection. Railroad companies and employers can be liable if they violate certain duties owed to railroad workers.
Under FELA, they have a duty to assist employees by providing training and supervision in a work environment that is reasonably safe. As such, they must inspect the environment to eliminate any hazards and enforce all rules and safety regulations. Employers also need to use reasonable work quotas and keep workers safe from others’ harmful acts.
To implement safety measures and eliminate hazardous conditions in the workplace, such as a railway yard, the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The obligations that employers face under OSHA include informing their employees of applicable OSHA health and safety standards. Employers must also provide employees with medical and exposure records.
As well, they need to prominently display the official OSHA poster listing employees’ rights and responsibilities. In addition, employers must establish a comprehensive, written hazard communication program. Overall, employers have a duty to provide employees with work and a workplace that does not contain recognized hazards.
An injured railroad worker can file a lawsuit under FELA to gain compensation for medical treatment, as well as pain and suffering or mental distress, in the past and future. A lawsuit can also bring compensation for past and future lost wages. Should a railroad worker’s death result from the injury, compensation goes to the surviving spouse and children.