(See Fear Factor I and Fear Factor II)
Some of you out there just don't get it…or maybe you just didn't hear (read) it…or maybe you just don't believe it. So let us say it again only louder and in big print:
REPORT ALL INJURIES WHEN THEY OCCUR!
In Straight Track - Fear Factor I and Straight Track - Fear Factor II, two of our Investigators wrote on this subject and begged you not to delay in reporting on the job injuries. But three phone calls in the last three days from seriously injured railroaders who did not report their injuries on the day the injuries happened make me believe that it's time to emphasize the importance of this advice again.
Let's go back to basics. Your railroad has a rule that requires you to report all injuries, no matter how minor. The rule may require same day reporting or within 24 hours of the occurrence, but IT REQUIRES REPORTING. You know that, and at some point you are going to have to admit you know it. If you don't follow that rule you are going to be charged with violating the rule, and perhaps other rules.
It is no defense that you didn't believe the injury was serious enough to be reported -- the "just a bump or bruise" excuse. It is no defense that you were afraid that if you reported it you would be fired. It is no defense, and the worst excuse, to say, "I wanted to be a good guy and not break the safety cycle because my supervisor is a friend. Let's look at why these defenses don't work.
"IT IS JUST A BUMP OR BRUISE."
You are not a doctor so your self diagnosis counts for nothing at an investigation. Let's face it: the reason for the investigation is that you didn't report the work injury until sometime later when you finally realized that in fact you were hurt, so your initial self diagnosis was wrong. Nobody wants to be hurt, so the tendency is to minimize the pain and "work if off." But you do so at your own risk. This is particularly true of joint injuries (knee, back, shoulder, ankle, etc.) because these injuries often start out as "not much" and then over the next days or weeks don't get better and oftentimes in fact get worse. The injury will surely get worse if you are still working and continuing to stress the joint.
"I WAS AFRAID I'D GET FIRED IF I REPORTED A WORK INJURY."
This excuse for not reporting a work injury is a very realistic fear. Most railroads will use your injury as an opportunity to charge you with a safety rule violation which they contend is the real cause of your injury. There is nothing you can do to prevent this. The railroad writes the rules, interprets the rules, charges you with breaking them and then sits as your judge and jury when they fire you for breaking them, even if you really didn't break a safety rule. Face the fact: you are not going to win a "rules" battle with the railroad at the local level. You may win at arbitration but that's a long way down the road.
It is better to face the investigation for supposedly breaking a safety rule without also having to face a delayed or fraudulent filing charge as well. It is an easier and a better case for the railroad if they fire you for late or fraudulent filing because there may well be a real question of whether you violated a safety rule when you were injured. An Arbitrator could find that there was no safety rule violation and put you back to work with back pay. But there's not much an Arbitrator can do if you got hurt on the day 1 of the month but didn't report it until day 15, particularly if you went fishing for a couple of days before you reported it, and only saw a doctor after you got back from the fishing trip.
"I WANTED TO BE A GOOD GUY AND MY SUPERVISOR LIKES ME."
Get this straight! You are a good guy only so long as (1) your production meets or exceeds the goals the railroad sets for the supervisor, (2) you are always at work, and (3) you don't get injured (or at least don't tell anybody if you are).
If your supervisor really liked you and had your best interest uppermost in his mind, he would want you to get to the Doctor or ER as soon as possible. He wouldn't try to talk you out of reporting it – "please don't break our safety cycle"- or threaten you - "if you report this work injury you will be fired" – or tell the Doctor not to give you any prescription medication or any device, like crutches, to assist you in protecting your injured body part.. Your supervisor would not repeatedly question you as to how the work injury occurred even after you filled in the required injury report, and he wouldn't bring in a team of other supervisors to question you or try to intimidate you into reenacting how you got hurt.
You are not going to get any breaks from the supervisor when you late file the injury report. You are now a bad guy and all the efforts of the railroad will be directed at punishing you, and when they fire you, they will use you as an example to your fellow employees of what happens when you are injured. So follow the rule and REPORT THE INJURY WHEN IT OCCURS.
Some time ago, you received a video from our office called "Don't Get Railroaded". This would be a good time to sit down with your family and watch it again. It would also be a good time to revisit Straight Track - "Fear Factor I" and Straight Track - "Fear Factor II." (See links above.) The information is just as valuable now as it was when it was written.
The fact that so many railroaders are still afraid to report a work injury demonstrates that the railroads' intimidation tactics are successful. Remember, your first source of help and advice is your local railroad union officer. Then call Hoey & Farina immediately so we can help protect you and your family. We are available 24/7.