WHAT SUMMER HAS TO OFFER
As winters go, this past winter was not too bad. There were only a few major storms and the temperature was never really extreme. Of course that usually means we will pay for it next winter. Actually, we will not have to wait that long; we will pay for it this summer.
Warmer, milder winters usually mean it was never cold enough for certain germs or bugs to die off. If you thought this spring has been tough with colds and allergies, see what summer potentially has to offer – unless you start taking action now.
RAILROAD'S DUTY TO PROVIDE A SAFE WORK ENVIRONMENT
Unfortunately, there are diseases that can be acquired in the workplace. West Nile Virus, in its worst form, is a neuroinvasive disease which affects the nervous system. Cryptococcus is a fungal infection which can cause brain and spinal cord disease symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, sleepiness and confusion. Histoplasmosis is another fungal disease which primarily causes lung infection. Preventing West Nile (from mosquitoes), Cryptococcus or Histoplasmosis (both from pigeon droppings) or other environmentally related diseases could be as simple as not allowing standing water to accumulate in discarded containers and ground areas prone to flooding or removing pests from the workplace.
Your employer railroad has a duty to provide you with a safe work environment when working outdoors and facing possible exposure to disease-carrying insects or animals. Railroads can be held liable for a failure to do so should you become sick as a result. Having a railroader actually contract an environmentally related disease is not a far-fetched scenario. In a landmark case, a railroad allowed a stagnant pool to remain next to its tracks in Ohio where many dead animals lay. A railroad worker was bitten by an insect next to the pool, sustained an infection and eventually had both legs amputated. The Supreme Court affirmed a FELA verdict for this railroader holding that the railroad had a duty to protect against such hazards. The Long Island Railroad was also held liable for failure to provide protection against ticks when it knew or should have known its maintenance of way workers were exposed to ticks, whose bites caused the workers to contract Lyme disease.
REPORT UNSAFE CONDITIONS
If you are at work and see unsafe conditions such as insect infestations, pigeon droppings, dead birds or standing water, etc., report it to your railroad and detail:
- Where exactly these are located in the yard.
- Where exactly you spend a majority your time working and being exposed to the unsafe condition.
Although the railroad has a duty to inspect for these signs of a problem, reporting these unsafe conditions keeps the railroad from “overlooking” these matters, helps puts the railroad on notice and gives them an opportunity to take actions to protect you and your fellow railroaders in your work environment. Should the railroad fail to take action to correct these unsafe conditions, having reported them will aid you in recovering financially from the railroad if you become sick after being exposed.
BE AWARE OF SYMPTOMS
Prevention is always the best medicine. When that fails, however, keep a close eye on your health. You may not immediately start to feel symptoms after being exposed. For instance, the incubation period for West Nile Virus is often two to fifteen days after exposure. That is why it is important if you start to experience any of the following symptoms that you seek medical treatment as soon as possible:
Fatigue, Body Aches, Swollen Lymph Glands, Fever, Headache, Blurred Vision, Dry Cough, Chest Pains, etc.
With illnesses such as West Nile, Cryptococcosis and Lyme Disease, the earlier you receive the correct medical treatment the better your medical recovery will be.
TAKE THE BITE OUT OF SUMMER
Take steps now to prevent becoming ill this summer due to exposure while working in an unsafe environment. Report unsafe conditions to your railroad!
If you have questions regarding this subject, or believe you may have become ill due to having worked in an unsafe workplace, please contact Hoey & Farina at 1-888-425-1212.