Stored energy can pose a serious risk to the health and safety of railroad workers long after a train has rolled to a complete stop. Whether electrical, hydraulic, pneumatic, or mechanical, this stored energy can cause crushing injuries, burns, electrocution, etc. when released. The release of stored energy that causes injuries and fatalities often occurs during service and maintenance operations.
Stored Energy on Trains
There are many sources of stored energy on a modern locomotive and within the railroad industry. These include pressurized gases, electricity, and mechanical energy. These stored sources of energy can be released accidentally, such as with a burst pipe, broken spring, or snapped cable. Stored energy can also be released deliberately such as through the uncoupling of a rail car or the push of a switch. Many stored energy accidents occur when individuals fail to properly deenergize equipment or machinery.
Protecting Workers from Stored Energy Sources
Stored energy accidents are responsible for causing approximately 10% of all workplace injuries. To help reduce the rates of injuries, employers are required to adhere to lockout and tagout standards established by OSHA. Commonly referred to as LOTO, these standards govern the servicing and maintenance of equipment and machinery.
The standards require that employees know the potential stored energy sources on the machines they are working. Employees must also be trained in how to safely work with these stored energy sources or to control or neutralize their presence. At a minimum, training must cover the energy control program, control procedures that pertain to the employee’s job duties, and OSHA requirements for lockout and tagout.
The standards also require that employers develop training and testing standards in order to strengthen proficiency and provide updated information to employees regarding changes to procedures, equipment upgrades, etc. These procedures should be reviewed and updated annually or at any point that new equipment is introduced. It is estimated that adherence to these guidelines and set standards prevent 120 fatalities and more than 50,000 injuries annually.
Liability for Stored Energy Injuries
Employers can be liable for accidents and injuries caused by stored energy sources. A railroad injury lawyer can pursue claims for personal injuries including lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, etc. Individuals may also be able to pursue claims against the equipment manufacturer if the injury was caused by failing to adhere to industry standards or in direct violation of OSHA mandates.