The Association of American Railroads (AAR) performed ergonomic and biomechanical evaluations to help determine the best practices for hand brake operation. These suggestions were aimed at reducing serious injury and promoting safety in the railroad work environment. Most of the suggestions are common sense, but are good to keep in mind while performing daily hand brake operations.
Their evaluations four basic principles:
1.Keep your hands close to your body
2.Minimize twisting and side-to-side bending
4.Use your leg strength and maintain balance with your hands and feet
You might look at these principles and think, "Duh, of course." But you may be surprised to discover many rail workers suffer cumulative trauma or repetitive motion injuries. These are debilitating injuries which can end a career after performing the same task on a daily basis in a way that damages the muscles and tendons in a rail worker's body.
There are a few basic steps which should be followed by railroad workers, in addition to those of the AAR. If an employee suffers from persistent joint pain, a medical consultation is in order. It's not unusual for someone to hope that an ache or pain they begin to suffer in their knee, shoulder, etc. is going to go away once it's given some rest. However, if the ache persists for weeks or months, there is a risk that continued use may cause more harm. In many cases prompt medical care relieves the pain and provides attention which assists the healing process. Also, when a car with an unusually difficult handbrake is discovered, it should be reported to the appropriate authority so it can be repaired, or at least create a record of the problem. This step may also protect another worker down the line who encounters the car.