Working in a railyard requires considerable stamina. It often involves non-traditional hours, changing schedules, overtime shifts and doing strenuous work in all kinds of weather (particularly here in our region). This all puts workers at risk for serious or fatal accidents and injuries while dealing with cars on the tracks – or from oncoming trains.
Rail safety experts have targeted fatigue as one of the greatest – and too often unaddressed – dangers of railway yard work. While employers can’t ensure that their employees get enough sleep, they can take steps to lessen fatigue among rail yard workers.
Limiting overtime and changing schedules
Overtime work is often available – and necessary. The money it brings in can make it tempting for workers. However, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has found that a regular weekly eight-hour overtime shift can be enough to prevent workers from getting enough time off to be well-rested.
Railyard work often requires overnight shifts. While people can and do get used to working at night, what can interfere with a person’s body clock and their ability to get a good night’s sleep is having an overnight shift for a few days or even a week followed by a day shift for a while.
Breaks are key
With the appropriate support and training by supervisors, rail yard employees can make the job safer for themselves and their co-workers. Besides the scheduling issues just discussed, railway yard workers need to take regularly scheduled breaks away from the work area. They also need to be able to take a break if they feel fatigued. That means knowing their limits and the warning signs of fatigue – in themselves and others.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in a railyard, it’s crucial to ensure that you get the benefits to which you’re entitled under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). If you’re having difficulty getting those benefits, it may be wise to seek legal advice.