For at least the second time in a week, a rail yard worker lost his life after being struck by rolling stock. The most-recent fatal workplace accident occurred in an industrial yard in Pine Bluff, Arkansas (AR), while the earlier deadly on-the-job injuries were suffered by a man in a CSX facility outside of Richmond, Virginia (VA).
The Pine Bluff incident occurred on the night of April 3, 2015, in the lot of Evergreen Packaging. According to the news reports, the deceased victim was coupling rail cars when the engineer on the train lost radio contact with him. When the engineer walked down the train to check on the switchman, he found the man's body underneath one of the cars he had been connecting. Television station WTHV 11 identified the switchman as an employee of Railroad Switching Services, but no outlet named the rail company whose train was involved.
Arkansas state police, local law enforcement officials and investigators from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration continue to search for answers as to why the fatal accident occurred. It is possible that the switchman got crushed between cars that lurched briefly into motion. Finding answers could take weeks or months.
Serious injuries and, sadly, deaths are not uncommon in rail yards all across America. Based in southeast Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, my personal injury and wrongful death law firm colleagues and I are most concerned with such accidents in yards servicing Amtrak, CSX and Norfolk Southern trains. We recognize, however, that every incident like the one in Arkansas requires thorough investigation to identify workplace dangers that can be corrected. Every somewhat-misnamed accident has a cause, and that reality means every resulting injury or loss of life was potentially preventable if safety-minded companies and managers had identified and mitigated the problem beforehand.
Whatever the root cause of the rail yard death in Arkansas turns out to be, let us hope that the findings spur actions to make all railroad jobs safer.