A National Transportation Safety Board report found crew member fatigue played a major role in the recent collision of two railroad trains. Railroad worker fatigue has become so much of an issue that in 2012 the Federal Railroad Administration introduced a fatigue management plan for railroad companies to implement. However nearly a year later the FRA released an in-depth study into rail workers' sleep schedules. It found of all railway workers, the trainmen and engineers, who actually drive the trains, are at highest risk for sleep deprivation. It went on to say regulations on work hours may be not be strict enough to prevent fatigue-related railroad accidents.
As Virginia (VA) railroad injury attorneys we know that unlike machinery that can be ruthlessly exploited to optimize efficiency, human beings are not biologically designed to work around-the-clock, to shift sleep and work schedules, or to work irregular or extended hours. When railroads disregard the necessity of adequate rest and sound sleep, serious injuries, including death may result. The single largest cause of human error in round-the-clock operations is employee fatigue.
Did you know that injured railroad workers such as brakeman/conductors, engineers, carmen, signalmen, machinists, maintenance-of-way-workers, are not entitled to traditional worker's compensation? Instead they are covered under the federal employer liability act (FELA). The FELA is a federal statute that is used when an injured rail worker like a conductor, engineer, trackman, yardman, etc. gets hurt while on the job.
FELA is different than workers' compensation, workers' compensation is a no-fault system that allows recovery of only a specific percentage of lost wages and payment of medical bills. It does not allow for any lawsuit or jury trial against an employer. A worker can recover even if at fault entirely. On the other hand, FELA is far better in some ways because it places no ceiling or cap on the amount of damages that may be recovered.