Poor Seating is Identified as a Cause of Railroad Worker Injuries

As a railroad worker injury lawyer, I’ve helped engineers, conductors and other crew members who suffered very serious injuries. We read a lot about derailments, explosions or chemical spills. However, poor seating causes many injuries on the railroad.

The problem is not new. Back in 1998, a Federal Railroad Administration study made a clear link between poor seating and injuries. The investigators noted the issue is well documented.

The study stated:

“Engineers complain of lower back, neck and shoulder pains related to sitting posture.”

A disconnect between the seating and the requirements of engineers to operate equipment exacerbates the problem.

Poor seating on trains leads to injuries

Poor seating may not sound as serious as derailments, moving parts or other hazards that can cause very serious injuries and deaths on the railroad.

But workers are constantly on their seats. The vibrations can impact their backs and cause very serious injuries over a period of time.

Poor Seating Issues on Trains Go Back Decades

We should not be surprised about why seating is so bad on trains. In 2003, a report by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers said executives focused on the “bottom line” make decisions on the railroads. Crews have little say.

There appeared to be little incentive for the railroads to tackle the level of vibration workers face on poor seating.

Studies have repeatedly pointed to the pain suffered by railroad employees who are forced to sit on these inadequate seats.

The Association of American Railroads’, Locomotive Cab Seat Evaluation in 1980 looked at the seating on trains on every major railroad in the country.

It found 40 percent of employees reported back pain from riding on the trains and almost 25 percent reported neck pain.

Ongoing pain is a warning of future injury. The unwillingness of the railroads to address such a fundamental problem over a span of at least four decades is alarming.

When poor seating leads to back injuries, workers may lose their jobs on the railroads. They may also have ground to sue their employers under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). If you were injured on the railroads, please call us at (866) 455-6657.

 

Sleep Apnea is Linked to Fatal Arkansas Train Crash

Sleep apnea on the railroads became a big issue in recent months with drowsiness linked to a spate of serious train accidents.

Now federal regulators have ruled a fatigued engineer and a conductor fell asleep just before a fatal collision between two Union Pacific trains in Arkansas.

A report in USA Today noted the crash that occurred on Aug. 17, 2014 in Hoxie could have been prevented by an automatic braking system that has been stalled in Congress.

sleep apnea is a serious issue on the railroads
Sleep apnea has emerged as a major factor in train accidents. It can be treated with CPAP

Railroads missed a number of deadlines for the technology. After a 2008 passenger-train crash in California, lawmakers ordered all railroads to install an automatic-braking system by the end of 2015. The costs led to delays.

They are required to install Automatic Train Control (ATC) by 2018.

Christopher Hart, the board chairman, stated:

“Human operators can be fatigued, impaired, distracted or medically unfit, and they can make errors even on their best days …This technological safety net is indispensable.”

The collision derailed 55 cars and a diesel-fuel spill and a tank car leaking alcohol caught fire. About 500 people were evacuated within 1.5 miles of the crash.

The Arkansas collision derailed 55 cars. It caused a serious diesel-fuel spill and a tank car leaking alcohol caught fire. About 500 people were evacuated within 1.5 miles of the crash zone.

The wreck occurred when a southbound train hit a northbound train as it turned onto an adjacent track. Investigators said the train that was heading south passed through two yellow warning lights and a red signal. There was no sign of the train slowing down and no sign of activity in its cab.

Investigators found no fault with northbound crew members, who were not given any time to apply brakes before the collision. The crew members were seriously injured, but survived the crash.

The southbound train was equipped with an automated alarm that should have sounded and given a visual warning. However, it failed to sound. The safety board previously issued warnings to the Federal Railroad Administration about a glitch in the automated warning system.

Two crew members died on the southbound train. The board concluded they were fatigued and probably asleep.

The USA Today report said the engineer suffered moderate sleep apnea which was diagnosed in 2010. Union Pacific didn’t require him to report his condition. The conductor worked irregular shifts that could have left him fatigued.

The Role of Sleep Apnea in Railroad Accidents

Over recent years rail accidents caused by drowsiness have prompted a change in how railroads treat sleep apnea.

As long ago as 2001 sleep apnea issues were reported among train crews in an accident in Clarkston in Michigan. Sleep apnea is a condition in which airways are obstructed, causing a lack of sleep.

It was a factor in a wreck in Red Oak in Iowa in 2011 and Chaffe, MO in 2013.

William Rockefeller, a Metro-North engineer who is accused of falling asleep at the wheel and causing a crash that killed four passengers in New York’s Bronx in 2013 has sued his former employed for $10 million. He claims the train should have had an automatic braking system that moderated its speed.

Investigators found the engineer of a New Jersey train that crashed into a station in 2016 killing one woman on the platform and injuring scores more, had undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers represent people who have been injured in train crashes and the families of those who died across the country. Please call us at (866) 455-6657 for a free consultation.

Oklahoma Worker Claims He was Terminated After a Railroad Injury

If you suffer an injury on the railroad, you should not expect your employer to be supportive. Railroads can be ruthless when workers get injured. In a recent case, an Oklahoma man alleged he was terminated after a railroad injury.

A report in SETexasRecord stated Chad W. Burleson filed a complaint on Oct. 5 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas.

Burleson alleges that Polivka International Co. Inc. and Kansas City Southern Railway Co. were in violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act.

The complaint relates to a work-related injury Burleson sustained on Feb. 18, 2014. He was working for Polivka as a contractor at a Kansas City Southern Railway Co. job site. His injury required medical attention and leave of absence, the lawsuit states. Just over a week later on Feb. 26, 2014, he was terminated from his employment.

Your rights if you are terminated after a railroad injury.
Cooper Hurley’s book about injuries on the railroad

The former railroad worker is suing Polivka International Co. Inc. and Kansas City Southern Railway Co. over the termination.

He is represented by attorneys Lawrence P. Wilson and W. Mark Lanier.

Terminated After a Railroad Injury – You Are Not Alone

As an experienced railroad accident lawyer, I hear of many cases in which workers who report injuries are victimized and even terminated after a railroad injury.

In 2013, Norfolk Southern Railway was ordered to pay $1.1 million for terminating three railroad employees who reported injuries.

Investigations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found the three men would not have lost their jobs had they not reported injuries.

The terminations go to the heart of the safety culture on the railroads. In 2014, a BNSF railroad worker in Washington State claimed he was fired because he took the time to test his train’s brakes.

This incident was even more alarming because the train in question was carrying propane, butane and carbon monoxide, hazardous materials that could cause serious injuries or deaths to workers and residents if a train derailed.

BNSF was accused by a number of workers and former workers of putting profits and speed above safety on the railroad.

If you have been injured on the railroad, you should be very careful about what you do or say to your employer. Call an experienced FELA accident attorney as soon as possible after your injury at (866) 455-6657.

 

Chlorine Accidents Pose a Major Threat to Railroad Workers

Chlorine accidents are one of the biggest concerns workers face on America’s railroads. The chemical is also taking a significant human toll in other industries.

An article in Scientific American recalled a recent accident at Tulare Iron and Metal Inc., a recycling facility in California where 23 people were hospitalized after a chlorine leak in 2010. Some of the workers were kept in hospital for as long as 10 days and were on life support. They continue to fight the ill effects of chlorine poisoning.

The article pulls no punches about the seriousness of chlorine spills. Over the last decade, it has been involved in hundreds of accidents across the United States, injuring thousands and claiming lives.

Chlorine accidents pose a grave threat to railroad workers

When it comes to deadly chemicals, chlorine is second only to carbon monoxide in terms of the number of injuries and deaths it causes.

Railroad workers have many reasons to be wary of chlorine. It’s transported in tank cars that have known weaknesses and are prone to rupture during derailments.

Graniteville Spill was Among Most Serious Chlorine Accidents

The worst chlorine gas incident in the history of the United States occurred in Graniteville, SC in 2005. The derailment of 18 freight cars led to the release of 120,000 pounds of the gas in the railroad town. The results were grim. Nine people lost their lives and at least 1,400 people were exposed to the noxious gas.

More than 500 people were treated in local hospitals. Some reported serious lung issues. Even today, some people are struggling because of the effects of the Graniteville chlorine leak.

The derailment of the Norfolk Southern train in Graniteville left a long-lasting legacy of pain. I helped some of the victims in the months after this terrible accident.

Chlorine accidents are normally unexpected. Unlike carbon monoxide, chlorine gas is visible. It gives off a yellow-greenish cloud.

Some useful information about chlorine accidents is provided by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

If you work on the railroad, you face potential exposure to numerous dangerous materials including coal dust, asbestos, and inflammable materials. If your health has been impacted by dangerous chemicals or other substances, you have likely grounds to make a claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Call us today for a free consultation at (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper

Hotel Accident on Ice Leads to $1.3 Million Verdict Against Union Pacific

When a railroad causes a dangerous condition that leads to an on the job injury to a worker, it’s clear that the injured worker can make a claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). But what about when a worker has a hotel accident at the facility a railroad uses for its crew members to stay at?

In a recent case in Minneapolis, a worker was awarded $1.378 million against Union Pacific Railroad after a worker slipped on ice outside a hotel. All cases are unique and different and we cannot guarantee the result of any given case.

Details of the case were posted by FELA attorney Fredric A. Bremseth on an ARLA discussion board. ARLA is the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys.

His client, a Union Pacific worker, was awarded $1,378,442 against the railroad by a jury after a six-day trial in Hennepin County.

Hotel accident caused head injury to railroad worker
A Union Pacific worker was hurt in a hotel accident

In November 2014, the worker was deadheaded to the New Victorian Inn in Sioux City, Iowa. It was the hotel Union Pacific chose for its crews. The engineer was to stay overnight and catch a train back to St. James in Minnesota the next day.

However, a hotel guest found him lying face up in a patch of ice in the hotel’s parking lot that night. The guest revived him and took him to the front desk where he received first aid.

The woman at the front desk said he seemed confused and there was some bleeding from the back of his head. There were no witnesses to the fall.

The next morning the engineer had no memory of what happened the night before. He was able to operate his train home. His problems didn’t end there. He complained of a severe headache and confusion the next day.

Hotel Accident on Ice Caused Cognitive Problems

The railroad worker’s wife took him to see the family doctor who diagnosed a concussion and told him to stay home from work for a few days and rest.  His symptoms lingered and he was later referred to a neurologist for further evaluation.  CAT and MRI scans were normal.  However, the engineer was referred for neuropsychological testing which found some mild cognitive deficits.

Although he followed all medical advice, the engineer failed to fully recover from the mild TBI he suffered and was unable to return to work as an engineer

In a subsequent lawsuit against Union Pacific, the railroad tried to blame a prior motorcycle accident with a head injury that the worker suffered on his condition.

Lawyers acting for Union Pacific and the hotel claimed there was little or no snow or ice in the hotel parking lot that day or night to cause the hotel accident.  They backed up the claim with weather data that showed only 0.4 of an inch of snow had fallen.  Hotel staff said it was a mere dusting.

However, a fellow crew member of the engineer, who left on an earlier train, testified that when he departed at 7 a.m. the next day there was snow and ice in the parking lot.

Congratulations to Fredric A. Bremseth for obtaining this jury verdict. Railroads fight cases like this hard and they often end up before a jury. The case demonstrates how a railroad can be liable for a hotel accident when there is negligence on behalf of a hotel and it’s the place it tells its workers to stay at.

If you were injured while working for a railroad I would like to hear from you. Contact our FELA injury lawyers at (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper

Worker Killed in Rail Yard in Montana Previously Sued Railroad Over Conditions

A sad recent case of a worker who was killed in a rail yard in Montana, highlights some of the dangers inherent on the railroad.

Richard Schmitz of Missoula was killed in the spring in Montana Rail Link’s yard in his hometown.

Remote control is a hazard in rail yards
The rail yard is a hazardous place

Media reports stated Missoula county officials concluded his death in a train collision was accidental.

The coroner said the cause of death was blunt-force trauma, and the circumstances of the collision remain under investigation. Schmitz died when a train collided with a smaller vehicle at the yard.

Investigations are underway from the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

A report by NBC Montana revealed the railroad worker had filed a lawsuit in 2011 claiming unsafe practices in his work and repetitive work using unsafe tools led to chronic pain and injuries that would impact his future.

An initial complaint from Schmitz alleged that MRL “(knew) or should have known that the job tasks, tools and equipment assigned to Plaintiff (Schmitz) would, over time, result in musculoskeletal injuries to the body as a whole, including his left foot.”

The lawsuit was withdrawn in 2014, reported NBC and most of the suits were settled out of court. MRL representatives said Schmitz voluntarily dropped his litigation, NBC reported.

The existence of a previous lawsuit before the death of this worker highlights some of the dangers that railroad workers face in rail yards.

Rail Yard Hazards

I have noted the extreme dangers associated with some rail yards here on this blog.

Remote control technology has been used in rail yards for many years, but there is some evidence that it merely exacerbates dangers.

This technology means only one person is routinely in control of a train. It’s now the norm in most of America’s rail yards but doubts linger about whether it’s made yards any safer.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, a railroaders union, has opposed the use of remote control in yards on the grounds that the technology was unsafe and untested.

In the past, I have handled several Federal Employers’ Liability Act cases involving CSX railroad workers who were injured during remote control operations. When railroad workers are hurt, they are often injured in yards. The arrival of remote control seems to be more about railroads cutting their costs rather than seeking to improve the safety of yard workers.

If you have been injured in a rail yard or have lost a loved one please call me at  (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper

Three Railroad Workers Were Killed when BNSF trains collided in Texas

When trains derail railroad workers are on the front line. Tragically, three railroad employees lost their lives in a recent crash in Texas when BNSF trains collided.

Four BNSF employees were involved in the fiery crash between two trains near Panhandle in Texas in late June, ABC News reported. It was the latest in a series of wrecks that has claimed the lives of railroad workers across the United States.

Later Houston Public Media reported that one of the trains had failed to heed a stop signal before the BNSF trains collided.

Two BNSF trains collided in Texas, killing three workers

Three of the four crew members who were involved in the wreck died. A fourth was injured but his injuries were not life-threatening.

A subsequent report by The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) stated that the eastbound BNSF railway train failed to slow down when it encountered a yellow warning signal on June 28. It then went through a red signal before hitting an oncoming BNSF train.

The force of the collision when the BNSF trains collided caused one of the trains to derail.  BNSF said in a statement it has been actively deploying positive train control (PTC) across its network and the Texas accident was the kind of incident that technology was developed to prevent.

When trains collide or derail, workers are often injured or even killed. Earlier this year, two Amtrak workers died when a train hit equipment they were working on in Pennsylvania.

Lawsuits have subsequently been brought after the wreck. I have also detailed how positive train control has been repeatedly delayed as the big railroad companies have claimed they are not ready for it.

Congress decided to implement PTC after one of the nation’s worst train accidents in 2008, when a Metrolink commuter train crashed into a freight train near Los Angeles in California, leaving 25 people dead and injuring more than 100.

Both passengers and railroad workers alike would benefit from PTC. If you are a worker who is hurt on the railroad due to negligence you have the right to sue a railroad operator under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Please call me for a free and confidential consultation today at (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper

 

Deteriorating Tracks Caused DC Metro Train Derailment

I am seeing more and more derailments and crashes on the railroads that are caused by deteriorating tracks. This week, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said poor track conditions along the Orange and Silver lines led to the derailment of a Metro train on Friday.

The Metro safety department revealed that two rails had become too wide due to deteriorating rail ties. More than 450 rail ties were replaced on the track between Ballston and West Falls Church after the derailment.

Deteriorating tracks are causing crashes

This finding alarms me as a railroad accident injury lawyer. Last year I highlighted a report that explained how deteriorating rails are causing accidents. Track and ballast integrity sensors could help identify these problems before derailments occur.

In the latest crash in Washington DC, a six-car Metro train derailed. The crash injured one rider and damaged two cars. It could have been much worse. The crash occurred near the East Falls Church Metro Station.

Metro said there was no evidence of train operator error leading up to the derailment. However, factors like car equipment, weather, high temperatures and other causes remain under review.

Metro General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld said a specialized track inspection was underway to make sure the problems that caused the derailment are not more widespread.

After the accident occurred service along the Orange and Blue lines was suspended until Monday morning to give time for a rigorous inspection and clean-up of the derailment site. Shuttle buses were used to ferry passengers between the affected Metro stops.

Problems with Tracks Are Causing Oil Trains to Crash

Last year, a report in the Los Angeles Times revealed track problems were behind many of the recent crashes of oil or ethanol trains.

Of 31 crashes involving crude or ethanol that have occurred on America’s railroads since 2013, 17 were related to track problems, the report stated.

The article pointed out the relentless pounding of the tracks from heavy trains can cause them to get wider and lead to derailments. Freight tracks in the U.S. are meant to be 56.5 inches apart. A mere three inches of movement can cause a train to derail. The report said even if tracks conform to federal standards, they can still separate under the force of a heavy train.

This is an alarming scenario for railroad workers and passengers alike. In recent years we have seen a series of fires and explosions as well as chemical leaks that have placed communities in danger.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a rail accident, you should contact me about your rights. Call (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper

Remote Control Operators May Increase Dangers in Rail Yards

Remote control technology has been used in rail yards for many years but I remain to be convinced that it provides optimum safety for workers.

This technology means only one person is often in control of a train. It’s now the norm in most rail yards but there’s some skepticism about whether it’s made yards any safer.

Remote control is a hazard in rail yards
Rail yards are hazardous places

Take the death of Melinda Carter, a 37-year-old conductor who was killed at CSX’s larger Riverdale yard in Chicago in 2010. She was killed when she was run over by a locomotive she was conducting.

Then there’s 33-year-old Jared Boehlke, who lost his life in 2009 when he stepped between two train cars in the CSX Selkirk yard in New York.

I noted that CSX recently updated its rules about remote operation. The amendment that was enacted in 2015 reads:

CSX Updates Remote Control Guidance

THE EMPLOYEE DIRECTING THE MOVEMENT AND/OR THE PRIMARY REMOTE CONTROL OPERATOR OF REMOTE CONTROL MOVEMENTS MUST:

  1. REMAIN AT THE DESIGNATED PLACE OF SAFETY UNTIL THE MOVEMENT IS STOPPED EXCEPT IN CASES OF EMERGENCY, AND
  2. MAINTAIN VISUAL CONTACT WITH A PORTION OF THE EQUIPMENT WHILE MOVEMENT IS OCCURRING.

The amended wording certainly appears to be a response to a concern about the hazards of using the remote system, even though it’s been used for more than a decade.

Back in 2001, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) gave the go ahead for major U.S. railroads to employ remote control operators (RCOs). The operators are belt pack devices that move unmanned engines.

Rail unions were skeptical from the start and remain alarmed. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers opposed the use of RCOs on the grounds that the technology was unsafe and untested.

In the past, I have handled several FELA cases involving CSX railroad workers who were hurt during remote control operations. When railroad workers are injured, they are often hurt in rail yards. The arrival of RCOs seems to be more about railroads cutting costs rather than seeking to improve safety at yards.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a rail yard, it’s important to know your FELA rights before your employer tries to take advantage of you. Call me for a free and confidential consultation today at (866) 455-6657.

Lawsuit is Filed Over Death of Amtrak Worker in Chester Crash

There has been plenty of speculation about an apparent breakdown in communication that led to the death of two railroad workers in an Amtrak derailment near Chester in Pennsylvania on April 3. Now a wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Amtrak in Delaware by the family of one of the workers who lost his life.

Wrongful death lawsuit is filed over Amtrak crash

The claim which has been brought by the family of Joe Neal Carter Kr., was reported in Delawareonline..

The suit was filed by Philadelphia attorneys Tom Kline and Robert J. Mongeluzzi, who represent the family of Joe Neal Carter Jr.

Carter was a veteran of the railroad and a longtime Amtrak employee. He was killed just north of the Delaware line while operating a backhoe.

The claim said Carter believed the track was protected at the time he was hit by the train. It cites poor communication and a failure to adhere to appropriate practices and procedures.

The worker was operating the backhoe when he was struck by the southbound Amtrak train at 106 mph. He lost his life along with fellow worker Peter Adamovich.

The lawsuit questions Amtrak’s safety precautions. It says the railroad failed to adhere to its own safety rules and did not comply with safe industry standards.

The family is suing Amtrak under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) in a claim that includes medical and funeral expenses as well money to support Carter’s two children.

The Federal Railroad Administration conducted a wide-ranging investigation in the light of the crash that has examined relevant safety precautions for workers. Recently, I outlined how the FRA has announced a raft of safety measures to protect workers from trains.

The investigation into Chester accident has looked at whether the work crew received the correct safety briefing before beginning its shift, a requirement of federal safety rules. Some insiders have alluded to a failure to implement basic safety procedures before the wreck.

Reports suggested a shunt strap was not in use at the time of the accident, in violation of Amtrak’s rules. A full report is not expected until the end of this year.

If you have lost a loved one in a railroad accident or if you have been injured while working on the railroads, I would like to hear from you. Call us for a free consultation at (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper