The kinds of work-related injuries suffered by railroad workers in North Carolina and South Carolina are often very serious, debilitating injuries.
And they continue to occur all too frequently. Our Charlotte workers’ compensation attorneys understand that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has since 1993 listed railroad worker injuries as being double and even triple the rate of those in the general population. Most commonly, these involve transportation accidents and collisions, falls and electrocutions.
The deadly nature of the job in both North and South Carolina is part of the reason why our lawyers are taking note of the agreement signed by Texas-based railroad giant, BNSF Railway Co., as a result of a push by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The federal agency pressed for the agreement after taking on more than 1,200 Federal Railroad Safety Act complaints between Aug. 2007 and September 2012. This number of whistelblower complaints was unprecedented, and more than 60 percent of those involved allegations that retaliatory action had been taken against a railroad worker who reported a job-related injury.
That doesn’t just involve BNSF, of course, but this company was reportedly one of the most egregious violators.
The FRSA, as defined under 49 U.S.C. 20109, protects a railroad worker from negative consequences, such as reprimand, suspension, demotion or termination, for providing information about what he or she reasonably believes may be a violation of federal law or a threat to public or worker safety. The law also prohibits companies from denying or delaying medical attention to a worker in the event of an on-the-job injury.
At BSNF, it was reportedly routine for the company to extend an employee’s probationary period at least partially on the basis of any injuries he or she suffered during their initial hiring. Additionally, the company had established a point system for workers who had been injured, and dozens of workers were retaliated against for reporting injuries and/or safety concerns.
The agreement signed by company leaders has several outcomes, including:
- The implementation of a legal review process when a worker who has suffered an injury or reports a safety hazard is subsequently disciplined;
- The adoption of increased training measures for managers, labor relations officials and human resources administrators regarding FRSA, with the requirement that supervisors acquire annual certification on that training.
- Eliminates the policy that tied probationary lengths to injuries sustained during that time, a move that effectively resulted in nearly 140 workers being immediately removed from probation;
- Offered a settlement to nearly 40 workers who had filed OSHA whistleblower complaints as a result of the company’s injury-related policies.
Under federal guidelines, there are 22 statutes that are enforced by OSHA and designed to protect workers. FRSA is one, and others include vehicle, airlines, pipeline, environmental, nuclear, public transportation, maritime, securities, food safety, consumer finances, consumer products and health care. It’s worth noting that of these, FRSA complaints regarding railroad injury and retaliation rank #2.
Injured on the job? Contact the Lee Law Offices today for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. Call 800-887-1965.
BNSF Railway Takes Steps to Ensure Workers Can Report Injuries Without Fear of Retaliation, Jan. 16, 2013, By Laura Walter, EH oday
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Employers Continue to Fall Short on Fall Protection Measures, Dec. 28, 2012, Charlotte Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog