Top Five Railroad Worker Occupational Diseases

by | Mar 28, 2022 | Railroad Injuries, Railroad Workers

In the late 1800s, the country’s railroad network rapidly expanded. Back then, there were no workplace safety laws to speak of. So, in 1908, lawmakers approved the Federal Employees Liability Act. Under FELA, railroads are liable for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, if negligence contributed to the injury.

Assume Rick slips and falls in the rain. The safety rail is a little weak. People can lean on it, but it cannot withstand the impact of a fall. As a result, Rick is seriously injured. The railroad’s negligence in maintaining the rail did not cause Rick’s injury, but it contributed to his wounds. Therefore, Rick is entitled to compensation under FELA.

Kentucky’s railroads are no longer expanding at breakneck speed. However, thousands of people still work the rails. Much of this equipment is quite old. Any machine can only withstand so much wear-and-tear.

Furthermore, railroad owners still have vast financial resources. So, when workers are hurt, a posse of lawyers immediately goes to work in order to defend the company’s financial interests. Therefore, unless victims have an experienced Lexington personal injury attorney on their side, there is almost no chance for them to obtain fair compensation in any of the following serious injury scenarios.

Lead Poisoning

A popular theory maintains that lead poisoning led to the fall of the Roman Empire. The Romans, who were noteworthy builders, used vast amounts of lead in their construction projects. Lead is cheap, malleable, noncorrossive, and easy to melt. Back in the day, lead was a prized metal among railroad owners for these same reasons. 

The government did not ban lead paint and other lead products until 1978. Much railroad equipment was built long before then. As a result, lead is pretty much everywhere, in railroad cars and railroad yards. 

Lead products are highly toxic. Since the body cannot dispose of them, they build up. This buildup causes a wide range of health problems, mostly renal disease, like gout, heart disease, and reproductive issues. Nervous system problems are common as well.

Repetitive Stress

Many workers spend considerable time walking the rails and throwing switches. Extended overuse of certain joints, such as writs and ankles, triggers repetitive stress disorder.

Repetitive stress, by itself, could cause a serious injury. Additionally, repetitive stress increases the likelihood of a trauma injury. Repetitive stress usually causes shoulder injuries in baseball pitchers. These muscles eventually give out.

These injuries often have statute of limitation issues. Normally, victims only have two years to file negligence claims. Frequently, repetitive stress injuries don’t become apparent for several years or even several decades. Usually, these victims still have legal options. However, the cases are quite complex.

Hearing Loss

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) occurs when noise travels into the body’s auditory system through the ear canal and to the eardrum. The eardrum is a sensitive membrane that expands and contracts with noise. If the ear is exposed to excessive noise levels over time, the hair cells of the ear get overstimulated. This is where the loss of auditory senses occurs.

In terms of negligence and hearing loss, the OSHA standards often come into play. This agency requires employers to provide hearing loss protection, and educate workers as to the importance of using this equipment, if the noise level exceeds 85 decibels. This noise level is basically a busy street corner or a food blender. These noises aren’t especially loud. But they are loud enough to cause permanent injury.

If doctors spot hearing loss early, it is relatively easy to correct. But as mentioned, many occupational disease victims don’t get immediate medical attention. If hearing loss deteriorates, risky and invasive ear surgery, which usually involves device implantation, is usually the only option.


Diesel fuel has a very distinct smell. This distinctive smell is benzene fumes. These fumes are extremely toxic and can cause leukemia and many other chronic health problems.

On a related note, do you like the smell of fresh-cut grass after you mow the lawn? You are inhaling benzene fumes. Super-heated organic material, like lawn clippings, produce benzene fumes.

Basically, leukemia, which can be chronic or acute, is an abnormally high white blood cell count. Physical symptoms include anemia, frequent infections, and abnormal headaches. If you work the rails and have any of these symptoms, speak with a Lexington personal injury attorney straightaway. A lawyer can connect you with a doctor who charges nothing upfront for professional services. Like other forms of cancer, leukemia is usually manageable, if victims get immediate treatment.


Asbestos, which is even more toxic than lead, is still legal to use in the United States. Now that its toxic properties are widely known, use has fallen off to pretty much nothing. But before 1980, pretty much every structure anyone built contained asbestos.

Asbestosis, a lung disease, is basically scar tissue that blocks tiny air passageways. Symptoms include shortness of breath even when at rest and a dry, persistent cough. There is no cure for asbestosis, but it is manageable.

Injury victims are usually entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Lexington, contact the Goode Law Office, PLLC. Attorneys can connect victims with doctors, even if they have no money or insurance. #goodelawyers