In their lawsuit, the eight men alleged that improper ballast in the CSX railyard caused them to develop serious injuries to their lower bodies, which have seriously impeded their ability to work. Ballast is the name given to the small rocks that are placed around train tracks in order to provide support and hold them in place. Most stretches of track are supported by mainline ballast, which uses larger rocks.
Because regularly walking on mainline ballast can increase a railroad worker's risk of slips, falls or injuries to the lower body, industry standards demand that the railroad companies place smaller rocks, called walking ballast, in their railyards to safeguard the health of their workers.
The eight workers who filed the railroad injury lawsuit alleged that CSX failed to place walking ballast in their railyard, despite company regulations which require them to do so. In addition, the employees alleged that they were required to throw improperly designed switches and to jump off of moving vehicles, both of which contributed to their injuries.
Their lawsuit said that CSX could have taken a number of steps which could have lessened or completely prevented the severity of their injuries. In addition to using walking ballast in the railyard, they stated that the company failed to conduct an ergonomic analysis of their job duties, which would have revealed the increased risk of injury.
They also claimed that CSX failed to prohibit employees from jumping off of moving trains until 1990 or from redesigning their switches so that employees didn't have to crouch to throw them. Quicker action in either area could have helped to prevent railroad worker injuries.
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Railroad workers are protected under the Federal Employees Liability Act (FELA), which allows them to recover damages from the railroad companies after suffering an injury in the workplace due to negligence. In addition to railroad ballast injuries or other types of chronic injuries, FELA also protects railroad workers in the event of a train accident, chemical or toxic exposure and other sources of injury.