High-profile railroads continue to promote safety as their top priority. However, workers believe they are falling short and are not practicing what they preach. In reality, business models are in place that does far more harm than good. Employees are working in environments that are dangerous and potentially deadly.
What they all can agree on is railroading is hazardous work. In 2021, eleven railroad employees lost their lives while on the job. It represented a 45% drop from the previous decade. Workplace injuries are also down. However, the rate that accidents occur is a troubling sign. In particular, yard accidents have grown when the volume has dropped.
Lives at risk
Employees frequently put their lives on the line in dealing with heavy equipment, risky heights, and hazardous materials. The simple act of vegetation removal from tracks continues to go unnoticed, even after an accident that took the life of a longtime worker. Litigation on that strategy is pending.
A total of seven Class 1 freight carriers seem to prioritize profits over their employees’ well-being. Staffing cuts have widened the rift between management and staff. A threatened national railroad strike was stopped in its literal and figurative tracks thanks to an act of Congress.
While management touts their focus on safety and the successful implementation of such measures, employees tell a different story. They cite significant reductions in training on safety measures in rail yards throughout the country. Unions also claim that rule books are far too lengthy, making it, at best, challenging for staff to follow every single safety precaution to keep trains running.
Simply put, employees believe that safety is a priority but depends on the financial resources needed. The more expensive, the more likely they will shy away from taking proactive steps to protect staff.