Track defects can be caused by wear and tear, improper or, lack of inspection, maintenance, and/or repair, and weathering. Defects in the track will initially begin to wear out the conditions of the rail until it develops into a buckled track. If track defects are not properly repaired a train derailment can occur. In the event that a train derails due to a track defect, railroaders may suffer injury such as head trauma, internal bleeding, broken bones, concussion, and potent death.
Buckled tracks are caused by multiple factors such as the rail overheating from thermal expansion of high temperatures, misaligned rail placement, weakened tracks, train load issues, or other defects. To ensure the integrity of the track, proper inspection, maintenance and/or repair is essential.
The failure of rail car wheels is often the result of shattered or vertical split rims (VSR), poor maintenance, manufacturing defects, weight overload, or wear and tear. If not properly repaired or replaced, broken wheels can lead to devastating derailments and ensuing injury for the railroad workers involved.
A signal malfunction can occur if enough of the signal’s parts fail or do not function properly. This malfunction can ultimately lead to changes in timing or scheduling and can potentially lead to collisions with other trains or vehicles, causing serious injury or loss of life.
Defective or misaligned railroad switches can be the result of poor maintenance and lack of needed repair. A defective, damaged, broken, or malfunctioning switch can lead to collisions on the track as well as injury to a railroad employee required to operate the malfunctioning equipment. Defective switches are a frequent cause of railroad injuries
Injuries on unsafe or unsecured walkways, whether on or around a locomotive or in the rail yard are common. Walkways that are obstructed or not maintained properly can quickly become dangerous to railroaders who have to maneuver them. Railroad employers must ensure the proper maintenance of walkways to limit potential hazards.
Bad Footing Conditions
Slip, trips, and falls are the leading cause of injury on the railroad. Bad footing conditions can put you in danger no matter the location. Debris and bad ballast can prevent railroad workers from being able to support themselves with proper balance and stability which can result in injury. Slick surfaces conditions can cause a railroader to lose balance and control, and strike the ground causing injury.
Leaking Tank Car
Leaking tank cars occur in transport or at rest if a tank car is punctured, in poor condition or not properly sealed. This condition can result in the contents of the railcar escaping and flowing to cover the tracks or surrounding area. If the leaking tank car contains a hazardous or dangerous substance, railroad workers may suffer inhalation and/or burn injuries.
Mechanical failure refers to the immediate or undiscovered failure of machinery or equipment that FELA workers use to complete their jobs. Failures that are not detected or repaired soon pose a threat to anybody operating or near the equipment in question. It is incredibly important that FELA employers ensure the proper functioning of their equipment.
Crossing collisions occur due to a crash between a foreign object on a crossing and the train using it. This could be the result of distracted pedestrians, lack of maintenance, stalled vehicles, hump crossings, and vehicle accidents. In the event a vehicle is involved, the passengers’ lives are at risk if they cannot escape the vehicle before the train enters the crossing or has enough prior warning to stop.
Derailments can occur due to broken wheels, intense weather conditions, defective switches, buckled tracks, track defects, signal malfunctions, collisions, and operator error. Depending on the severity and location of the derailment surrounding pedestrians, homes and businesses may be severely impacted. FELA workers onboard a derailment will most likely suffer numerous injuries, some potentially deadly.
Pedestrians may walk onto tracks and find themselves unaware of an oncoming train or vehicle. The ensuing collision will almost certainly be fatal for the pedestrian and could be dangerous and traumatizing to the FELA employees impacted by it
Carryall and Company Vehicle Accidents
Carryalls, UTVs, ATVs and other company vehicles may have an accident leaving the occupants severely injured. No matter the vehicle, employers should ensure that proper use and driving measures are employed to limit the potential for a crash involving FELA workers. Improperly trained or supervised employees with any vehicle pose a threat to any person around them.
Electrical failures involving machinery or heavy equipment can leave railroad workers exposed to a serious threat of injury. Railroad employers must ensure they properly maintain railroad electrical systems to allow railroad employees to work in a safe environment.
Improper Train Handling
Improper train handling occurs when the train is operated incorrectly or by someone with a lack in the necessary training and job requirements. It is important that FELA employers ensure their trains are operated by trained professionals. Failure to do so leaves all onboard or in the way of the train at great risk.
Heavy Lifting and Operating
Heavy physical labor such as lifting or operating machinery can lead to FELA workers suffering a variety of injuries and accidents. Proper equipment needs to be provided to ensure individuals do not lift or maneuver objects much larger than needed. Hernias and back injuries are potential outcomes from repeated heavy lifting.
Dangerous Yard Conditions
Rail yards are often busy places full of FELA workers, equipment, cargo, supplies and other various things. The large amount of moving parts and close work of humans with heavy machinery puts any yard worker constantly at threat for their safety. Companies can design and implement systems to limit accidents in the yard but other employees and their equipment can cause damage to others instantly.