The heart of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) is the idea that a Railroader is entitled to a safe place to work. A Railroad has a continuous duty to exercise ordinary care under the circumstances to provide its employees with a reasonably safe place to work and with reasonably safe and suitable tools, machinery and appliances with which to work and, in absence of knowledge or notice to the contrary, an employee may rely on the assumption that the employer exercised such care. While reality often dictates otherwise, under the law this means that a Railroader can presume that his place of work is not dangerous and it is free from hazards.
The duty to provide a safe place to work is non-delegable. That means that the Railroad cannot rely on a third-party to provide its workers with a safe place to work. This non-delegable duty to use reasonable care to furnish an employee with a safe place to work also extends beyond the Railroad’s premises and to the property of third persons used by the employees while engaged in the performance of his duties. This means that a Railroader that is injured while working at an industry is covered by the FELA. This non-delegable duty to provide a safe place to work also extends to motor vehicle accidents that occur while a Railroader is deadheading and situations where an injury occurs when a Railroader is staying overnight between shifts in a hotel that is being paid for by the Railroad.
By Matt Darby