Whether you have been railroading 30 days or 30 years, I am sure you have come to realize that railroading is governed many rules.
I am also sure that you realized early in your career that railroad management enforces these rules at their convenience. How many times throughout your career has middle management not only turned a blind eye to rule violations, but encouraged these violations so long as it increased the productivity of their department?
These railroad managers have no problem taking credit for all the cars that get handled or all the miles of track that get laid. Yet when something goes wrong, it is these same middle managers who go to the disciplinary hearings to testify against you, read into the record all the rules you violated, and ultimately issue the discipline to you.
THE RAILROAD CATCH 22
Due to management's attitude regarding rule enforcement, some railroaders are tempted, under pressure by these same managers, to violate the rules. But always remember that employees have the right to enforce the rules. If you violate a rule and something goes wrong, it is you who will get caught in the Railroad Catch 22. Even though management (because it benefits them) may have conspired with you a thousand times before by turning a blind eye to your rule violation -- or even if you were management's hero the day before -- when something goes wrong, management will look you in the eye and tell you that should have known better. And at no time is this Catch 22 environment more clear than when a railroader sustains an on-the-job injury.
There is not a railroad that I know of that does not have a rule requiring employees to report an on the job injury. The words might differ from railroad to railroad with regards to the timeliness or manner in which to report a work injury, but they all require reporting.
Yet, when you sustain an on-the-job injury, you will find yourself surrounded by management personnel trying to dissuade you from reporting the injury. Remember, management's urgings to you not to report an injury, in essence, is encouraging you to commit a rule violation.
Management will not come right out and tell you to violate the rule. They will more likely say things like:
- "You know if you report it there will be an investigation and you will get in trouble."
- "Why don't you mark off sick, see how it is for couple of days, and we can always report it later?"
- "Hey come on work with us and don't mess up the safety record for the rest of the guys."
All of these suggestions might seem convenient at the time, but the truth of the matter is, there is not a single benefit for the injured railroader not to report the injury. I'm not saying that you won't be harassed. You will be. I'm not saying there won't be an investigation. There probably will be. What I am saying is that reporting the work injury is not only required by the rules, but it is well worth the hassle. Your failure to report an on-the-job injury and complete an injury report will not only subject you to discipline, but can destroy, or severely damage, your case against the railroad. Reporting the injury is crucial to your economic recovery.
THE RAILROAD OWES YOU NOTHING, UNLESS...
Railroaders who are injured on-the-job are covered by a federal law called the FELA - Federal Employers' Liability Act. Since I am not a lawyer, I will not explain this law to you in detail, but I will tell this: The most important thing that you should understand about the FELA is that no matter how serious your work injury, the railroad does not owe you anything unless you can prove the railroad is at fault. Under the law, the railroad is held harmless unless you can prove otherwise. It is up to you to preserve and provide the evidence. All the documentation is up to you. In fact, the whole case is all up to you and your legal team.
If you suffer a work injury, comply with the railroad's rule. Don't conspire with management to screw yourself by committing a rule violation by not reporting a work injury. Truthfully describe on the railroad's injury report the unsafe condition or defective equipment that caused your injury. Don't be a fool with the rule. Let the company's injury report be you first piece of evidence toward establishing your claim.