Occupation Exposure

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Railroad Workers

Railroad workers have always played a historic role in the United States, and they have made millions of lives better across the nation.

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In fact, an estimated one-third of all imports are made through this form of transportation, and trains have transported fuel, food and building materials since the first creation of the mighty steam engine. Railroad workers can say that they are responsible for some of these changes that have come as a result, and they have helped with the maintenance and laying of over 300,000 miles of train track across the United States.

Some of the jobs included in this field are:

  • Train engineers

  • Plumbers

  • Maintenance worker

  • Track layers

  • Yardmasters

  • Conductors

The Little Known Danger

A lot of workers on the railroads understand some of the potential dangers that come with this type of work. For example, derailments, collisions, malfunctions with machinery, fires and accidents. In most cases, workers’ compensation will be offered, but what a lot of people never even stop to consider is how some of these trains might have asbestos on them. In fact, if they were built anywhere from 1930 to 1970, this is a time period when many of the components on the trains added asbestos-based products onto them. When you breathe in this dust, it can lead to severe problems for your lungs.

One of the problems with asbestos-based particles is how you can’t cough it out of your lungs easily. In fact, the jagged fibers can get caught in the lungs to cause cancer or breathing problems.

Where Does On-the-Job Exposure Come From?

Workers who get exposed to asbestos-based products will have a variety of different ways that it gets to them. For example, in trains before the 1970s, it was used in the ceilings of the caboose, the insulation, boilers, electrical panels, driving cabin and the carriages. Some of the other places that you could run across it included the wallboards, the coiling cement, the plaster, gaskets and cement tiles. There were many different ways that a railroad worker could encounter it. Sometimes the locomotive parts would also include it. In particular, it was popular for the brake pads, brake linings and clutches because of how this mineral was heat resistant. In fact, that’s one of the reasons that it still gets used in some vehicles today.

Scientific Research

Based on studies that Dr. Wilhelm conducted, he learned how railroad workers were around three times as likely to end up with mesothelioma as the general population. Dr. Wilhelm also discovered a few other interesting facts in his research. First, he learned how workers who were 50 years or older had a 21 percent chance of having been exposed to this dangerous substance. Another thing that was learned was how only three percent of workers below the age of 50 had been exposed to it. That’s a fairly better number compared to the other one.

One of the problems that would lead to asbestos-related exposure was similar to what happened with auto mechanics. When people would go to work on the trains, sometimes they’d have asbestos-related parts like the brake lining or the clutches.

What happened over time, however, was how these parts would start to wear down. As they’d wear down, people would start to breathe in the asbestos-related fibers. While you might be able to breathe them out at first, if you inhaled them over a long duration, it could lead to scarring of the lung tissue and inflammation.

Railroad Asbestos-Related Lawsuits

The railroad does things a little differently from some of the other job sites out there. For example, you can’t claim workers’ compensation as a railroad worker. What happens is that you will be allowed to sue your employer. This is based on the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. However, you will have to show how negligence on the employer’s part led to your injuries.

Unfortunately, as a railroad worker, if you wanted to seek compensation against a manufacturer of asbestos-based products, FELA regulations stop employees from getting compensation in damages that will be higher than workers’ compensation. Railroad companies have even done their best to ban FELA claims after one company filed for bankruptcy.

In one case known as Williams v. CSX, the wife of deceased Ray Williams won $7.5 million in a court verdict against CSX. The claim was that the railroad company failed to warn Williams about the dangers of asbestos-related products in his time as a railroad worker from 1962 to 1999 when he retired. He worked around asbestos-containing materials, which ultimately contributed to his death.

Railroads that purchased these types of materials and gave it to workers could be held liable in the court of law.

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