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VICTIMS OF DIESEL EXPOSURES

Railroad Track/Engineering Department

Members of the railroad’s engineering department, including trackmen, equipment operators, welders, electricians, and signal maintainers, routinely endure exposures to creosote, ballast dust, silica sand, herbicides, welding fumes, and diesel exhaust.  These exposures, unique to each craft, can lead to a variety of illnesses, including lung cancer, silicosis, and acute myeloid leukemia.

Diesel Injury Law focuses its practice on FELA cancer claims representing sickened railroad employees. Many of the exposures that cause our clients’ illnesses occurred back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, before the railroads began any proactive industrial hygiene practices.

railroad cancer attorney

For instance, we have represented B&B employees who tore down asbestos-containing buildings with no respirators or other personal protective equipment; section crew members who heated rail by burning asbestos rope soaked in diesel fuel; and signal maintainers who ended their days with creosote burns all over their wrists and forearms.  These chronic exposures cause cancer.

By the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s, the railroads – largely owing to governmental regulations and lawsuits brought by sickened workers – began to introduce some practices in an attempt to limit their workers exposures to carcinogens.  By 2006, Union Pacific Railroad required its Engineering Department employees to wear respirators for the following tasks:

  • Welding on metals that contained more than 10% lead, cadmium, zinc, silver or brass
  • Welding on track components, aluminum or stainless steel
  • Torch burning or cutting, rivet busting, paint scraping, needle gun use on painted bridges
  • Air arcing/plasma cutting
  • Metal grinding on manganese and rail
  • Burning rope, sawdust or other fuels used to heat rail
  • Cutting creosote covered ties
  • Dumping ballast
  • Operating equipment in a tunnel
  • Track personnel working in tunnels
  • Demolishing old buildings
  • Ballast plowing, grooming, double broomer, tie scarifier, cribber, adzar, shoulder cleaner, yard cleaner, undercutters
  • Painting with a spray gun
  • Using chemicals to spray wash equipment
  • Using solvents, adhesives and caulks in non-ventilated areas
  • Engine-powered pesticide and herbicide spray application or piloting the hy-rail carrying a contractor spraying herbicides or pesticides
  • Handling or working with suspected asbestos-containing materials
  • Surface blasting of equipment with sand, grit, coal slag etc.

How many of you performed those jobs without any breathing protection in the 1970’s and 1980’s?  One of our Bridges and Buildings clients used to shape creosoted ties without breathing protection, sandblast lead paint off bridges without breathing protection, and use a torch to make cuts on lead-painted components.  The railroad he worked for now uses environmental contractors – in full hazmat gear – to perform the work that he once did without anything but steel-toed boots and gloves to protect him.

railroad trackman cancer

The fact is, today’s engineering department employees still face regular exposures to carcinogens.  The danger remains, but some railroads do a slightly better job safeguarding their employees.  The associated diseases are as varied as the exposures.  Many track department workers develop pulmonary illnesses like silicosis, COPD and lung cancer and others develop blood and bone marrow cancers like Acute Myeloid Leukemia and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.  Bladder, kidney, laryngeal and stomach cancers are also prevalent amongst engineering department workers.

These cases are reliant on the opinions of medical doctors, epidemiologists and industrial hygiene experts. If your attorney hires the wrong expert, your case will not make it to trial. It is vital that you retain an experienced railroad cancer lawyer to represent you. Learn more today by calling 312-877-5588 and speak directly with one of our attorneys.



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