Cumulative Trauma: The Train Reaction

Cumulative trauma can build up over the course of a career to cause debilitating injuries that prevent railroad workers from fulfilling their duties. While each stress, impact, or exposure is often minor, the physically demanding nature of the job and the presence of dangerous work conditions can cause permanent damage to muscles, knees, joints, tendons, and nerves.

Each time an employee is struck, overexerts a muscle, hears a loud noise, catches a whiff of something, it causes small amounts of damage. Over time, the body’s ability to heal from these injuries diminishes, the individual’s range of motion becomes limited, and the buildup of chemicals and contaminants can cause permanent damage to respiratory and neurological functions. Railroad injury lawyers pursuing FELA claims may use expert testimony to establish a link between the repetitive traumas a worker was exposed to and the cumulative injuries they caused to the worker’s bones, joints, muscles, organs, etc.

Dangers of Working on the Railroad

Railroad work exposes workers to many sources of cumulative stress. These include whole body vibrations that travel through muscles, bones, and joints that occur while riding on trains or standing on platforms, repetitive motion from operating controls and switches, as well as coupling and uncoupling train cars. Many jobs also involve the lifting of heavy machinery or squatting/kneeling to service the train and its components. Many workers are exposed to toxic chemicals including petroleum products. Repeated exposures to toxic substances can cause respiratory problems, cancers, and neurological damage. Finally, workers are at constant risk of hearing loss from exposure to noise levels that regularly exceed safe levels.

Carrier Liability

Railroad carriers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees. Railroad companies that fail to provide adequate training and protective equipment negligently place their workers at risk of serious, potentially permanent injuries caused by cumulative trauma. Under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), railroad workers are entitled to seek compensation for these injuries and the impact the injuries have on their ability to continue gainful employment and enjoy their previous quality of life.

Employees have three years from the date the injury becomes known to file a FELA claim. This statute of limitations starts ticking from the date the injury first causes symptoms, thus it is important not to delay filing a claim as it is likely to be dismissed after this period expires.