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FRA recommends safe practices under signal suspension

New York residents may remember some of the more recent railroad accidents involving Amtrak, CSX and Union Pacific Railroad trains. Many of these occurred on railroads that had temporarily suspended the signal system for maintenance, repairs and other work. The trend is so prominent that the Federal Railroad Administration has issued a safety advisory for all railroads under signal suspensions.

Published in the Federal Register this November, it is the final development of a draft safety advisory issued in April. The FRA recommends that these railroads develop procedures that are consistent with previously identified best practices; that way, railroad workers will be protected during signal suspensions.

Injured railroad worker seeks compensation

Residents of Connecticut, New York and Washington, D.C., who are concerned about workplace injuries should be aware of a rail yard accident that occurred in Texas. A carman who was hurt on the job alleges that his injury occurred due to hazardous conditions at the rail yard. Citing negligence, the suit was filed against Union Pacific Railroad Co. in the Jefferson County District Court on Oct. 18.

The complaint states that the plaintiff was working for Union Pacific Railroad Co. when he was injured by a chunk of rail tile that went through the floor of his vehicle. The incident caused the plaintiff to be ejected from his vehicle, causing allegedly significant injuries. The plaintiff claims he would not have been injured if the rail yard had been a safe place to work. Specifically, he stated that inadequate lighting was to blame for his failure to notice the loose debris. The plaintiff also claims that the rail yard should have been free of debris and other safety hazards in the first place. The plaintiff states that if the debris had not been in the path of his vehicle, he would not have run it over.

What should I do if I am injured at my railroad job?

Unless you have been through the process before, it can be difficult to know what to do after a workplace injury. If you are injured at your job with the railroad, you may be able to receive compensation under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) for past and future wage loss as well as physical and mental suffering. Because you will only receive compensation if you can prove your injury was caused by your employer’s negligence, it is important you take several precautions after your accident, if you are physically able to do so.

Immediately after the accident, you should report the injury to your employer, complete an injury report form and seek medical attention. It is often in your best interest to be as thorough as possible when you are filling out the injury report form because this document will most likely be used when you seek compensation.

Railroad ordered to pay $2.1 million to former worker

Residents of Connecticut might be interested in the outcome of a wrongful termination suit that was filed against BNSF Railway. The plaintiff, a worker from Montana, was awarded $2.1 million in federal court on November 5 after a jury decided that BNSF had wrongfully terminated his employment after he suffered an on-the-job injury.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was injured in 2015 while working as a conductor. Court documents describe the injury as occurring when the plaintiff grabbed a jammed door handle on a locomotive. He felt pain in his wrist and heard a popping sound. Later on, this wrist gave way when he grabbed a railing, which caused him to fall.

Railway worker dies after explosion

Railroad and subway workers in Connecticut and across the country may be concerned to learn about an explosion in Chicago that took the life of one Metra worker and severely injured another. The two men were welding on the railroad on Nov. 3, 2018, in the city's northwest side when a tank of gas stored at a nearby truck exploded. The workers were operating on the Milwaukee District North line during morning repair work at the time of the accident, which happened near the line's Grayland Park station.

The workers were continuing railway work from the previous weekend, which had replaced track diamonds on the line. The welders were engaged in routine maintenance at the time of the serious explosion. After the workplace incident, both men were taken to hospital in serious condition. However, one of the two men died while the other remained in stable condition. The 37-year-old worker who lost his life was pronounced dead less than an hour after the explosion.

Injured railroad worker sues for damages after train hits backhoe

Heavy equipment produces abundant workplace hazards for railroad workers in New York. An accident described by a lawsuit filed by a man who suffered serious injuries while working as a switchman illustrates how a day at work could lead to the hospital. His court filings accuse Toddco Construction LLC and LJA Infrastructure Inc. of negligence after the parties left a backhoe on an active line of track. When his train hit the backhoe, he was crushed between the machines.

The collision inflicted multiple injuries to his neck, head, back, shoulder, arm and leg. His lawsuit tallied his damages at $1 million based on medical bills, lost income and possible future expenses arising from his injuries.

How railroad retirement benefits differ from most 

It might shock some railroad workers to learn that they are not covered by Social Security. Instead, railroad workers receive federal retirement benefits through the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB). While the RRB is similar to Social Security, there are a few key distinctions between the programs. Most importantly, railroad workers fall into two tiers of benefits under the RRB. 

Railway to pay damages to employee for whistleblower violations

Some railroad employees in New Haven and other northeastern cities might have heard that Springfield Terminal Railway Inc. was fined for violating whistleblower laws. The fine is in relation to an accident an employee had at the company's Andover facility.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the employee had to attend an investigative hearing the following day. There was a possibility the employee would be disciplined or terminated.

Metro-North collision sends worker to hospital

Connecticut residents may have heard about the railroad accident that took place on Sept. 29 in Norwalk. This was the second time in two and a half months that a collision led to a Metro-North Railroad employee being hospitalized.

Around 3:55 a.m. that day, two track cars bumped into each other on out-of service tracks between South Norwalk and East Norwalk, resulting in a low-speed collision; track cars rarely exceed 5 mph according to a Metro-North spokesman. As a precautionary measure, one Metro-North employee was taken to the hospital for observation.

Amtrak faces safety challenges

Amtrak has been working to improve both its safety record and its customer service. Generally, the trains run on schedule between New York and Washington, D.C., since the company owns those tracks, but in other places, they are often delayed by freight trains.

There have been accidents and several near-misses in this fiscal year. In its first 10 months, three passengers and four employees died. In addition, nearly 800 passengers and 585 employees were injured. The company has until Nov. 1 to submit a plan of operation to the government that includes addressing these safety issues. Annually, it has around 115 operating violations. However, in the past year, it has had fewer incidents of tampering with a safety device, running a red signal and speeding. It also has plans to improve its drug and alcohol polices and testing and make its confidential reporting system more accessible to employees. According to the chief safety officer, it will take several years for these changes to lead to real improvements in the company's safety culture.

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