Top Five Occupational Diseases Among Railroad Workers

by | Jul 5, 2022 | Railroad Workers

As air travel became more common, the number of railroad workers has dropped sharply since the mid 1900s. However, rail is still one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to move goods to market. Therefore, over 135,000 people still work on American railroads. These high-paying positions often require little education or training, so these jobs are quite coveted among many groups of people.

The companies that use railroads are very interested in cost savings and efficiency improvements. But they aren’t very interested in workplace safety. That’s especially true for occupational diseases which are difficult to pin to a certain cause.

Fortunately for victims, the burden of proof is rather low in Federal Employers Liability Act injury claims. A Lexington personal injury attorney must only prove that employer negligence contributed to an occupational disease. There’s no minimum requirement, but the higher the contribution, the higher compensation usually is. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

Contact Dermatitis

Diesel fuel, industrial solvents, and other harsh chemicals are ever present in railroad yards and other such environments. These chemicals don’t just cause skin irritation. In many cases, they could cause permanent injuries. That’s especially true if the victim has a pre-existing health condition.

Usually, as long as negligence played an itty-bitty role in the injury, an insurance company cannot use a pre-existing condition as an excuse to reduce or deny compensation in a railroad worker injury claim. The eggshell skull rule, a bedrock negligence principle, protects these victims in these situations.

Sometimes, permanent injury develops anyway. About 75 percent of CD victims develop permanent injuries. Most of these individuals, but not all of them, have pre-existing conditions.

Breathing Problems

If you breathed chemical fumes, silica dust, exhaust fumes, and other irritants all day every day, you’d probably develop breathing problems. Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD) are the most common breathing illnesses among railroad workers.

Usually, these victims don’t immediately seek medical treatment. Early symptoms of breathing problems usually include very mild chest pains and shortness of breath after periods of exertion. Most people don’t associate such symptoms with serious lung diseases. 

Even if the FELA claims deadline expires, these victims usually still have legal options. Under Kentucky’s delayed discovery rule, victims don’t have to begin claims until they know the full extent of their damages and they connect their injuries to a specific cause, such as workplace negligence.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

This group of occupational diseases includes repetitive stress injuries. Many railroad workers spend lots of time reaching, bending, stooping, or kneeling. The elbows, knees, ankles, and other joints can only take so much wear and tear before they stop working properly.

These activities are part of the job. Railroad owners aren’t negligent if workers get hurt doing their jobs. However, these companies are negligent if they fail to provide knee braces and other safety equipment. Additionally, making the equipment available isn’t enough. The boss must tell workers why the equipment is important and teach them how to use it properly.

Hearing Loss

Partial deafness is the most common occupational disease in the United States. This condition affects roughly forty-eight million Americans. Hearing loss isn’t just a physical problem. This condition affects people emotionally. Hearing loss victims often withdraw from friends and family. They usually also stop participating in activities, like going to movies and concerts, which they previously enjoyed.

Scientifically, sounds as low as 35 decibels, which is the equivalent of a lawnmower engine, could cause permanent hearing loss. If doctors catch the problem early enough, it’s usually easy to address. However, as mentioned, most people don’t run to the doctor the first time they have to increase the TV’s volume. Hearing loss is degenerative. Very quickly, hearing aids don’t help. The only possible remedy is risky inner ear surgery.


The aforementioned emissions often contain toxic particles. These particles accumulate in the body and form tumors. Cancer survival rates have increased significantly since the 1990s. Unfortunately for victims, cancer treatment costs have increased even faster, especially since the end of the Great Recession. FELA compensation is available for medical bills and other economic losses, such as lost work.

Cancer causes an almost unbelievable amount of pain and suffering, especially in advanced cases. Everyday activities, like taking the dog for a walk or pushing a grandchild on a swing, become physically impossible. Compensation is also available for these noneconomic losses.

These same kinds of compensation are available in all FELA injury claims. Additionally, most of these claims settle out of court, so victims don’t have to endure emotional trials to get their checks.

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. Virtual, home, and hospital visits are available.