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Railroad Injury Blog

Railroaders, COPD And The Danger Of Diesel Exhaust

Friday, March 29, 2013

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a pulmonary disease that makes it hard to breathe. It is progressive meaning that it gets worse over time. It can cause coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness, and other symptoms. COPD denotes two main conditions, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. In emphysema, the walls between many of the air sacs in the lungs become damaged, and as a result, the air sacs lose their shape and become floppy. In chronic bronchitis, the lining of the airways is constantly irritated and inflamed. This results in thick mucus in the airways, making it difficult to breathe. Most people who have been diagnosed with COPD have both emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

COPD is a major cause of disability. It’s also the third leading cause of death in the United States. The symptoms of COPD often worsen over time and can limit one’s ability to do routine activities. Severe cases of COPD may prevent a person from performing even basic activities.

While cigarette smoking is the leading cause of COPD, exposure to other lung irritants may cause or contribute to COPD. One of those known irritants is diesel exhaust fumes. The railroads converted from using steam locomotives to diesel powered locomotives after World War II. By 1959, 95% of locomotives were powered by diesel fuel. Today a vast majority of the locomotives being operated by US Railroads are powered by diesel. Health magazine recently indicated that railroading was one of the 10 worst jobs for your lungs.

In 2006, a study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives that indicated that Railroaders exposed to diesel exhaust are at an increased risk for developing COPD. The study’s findings were summarized as follows: “In this case-control study of railroad workers, work in jobs with exposure to diesel exhaust was associated with increased mortality from COPD. These elevations persist after controlling for smoking and increased with increasing years of work in exposed jobs.” The study determined that the risk was highest for those railroaders who worked on operating trains – engineers and conductors. The study can be found here.

By Matt Darby

Railroaders And Sleep

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I cannot think of any occupation where health sleep is harder to come by than in the railroad industry. Things have gotten better lately, but many railroad workers have suffered years and years of sleep deprivation. Studies are confirming that there is a significant relationship between lack of sleep and some common medical conditions. Heart disease and diabetes have been linked to poor sleep patterns. This connection is not entirely new, and certainly that fact that lack of sleep is unhealthy is well know in general. Should the railroads in this country take employee health issues into account when setting work demands? Of course. Are many employees now paying the price for their failure to do so – suffering from pre-mature heart disease and diabetes? It seems more and more likely. Give us a call if you would like to discuss your health and determine whether you may have a claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act.

Here is a link to the Harvard Medical School’s website regarding Railroaders and healthy sleep:

By Matt Darby

Railroaders And The Dangers Of Silica Exposure

Friday, July 20, 2012

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) states the following regarding silicosis: “Silicosis is caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica dust. Crystalline silica is a basic component of soil, sand, granite, and most other types of rock, and it is used as an abrasive blasting agent. Silicosis is progressive, disabling, and often fatal lung disease.” The effects of silicosis are lung cancer, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), Tuberculosis, Schlereroderma and possible renal disease. Click here.

OSHA has indicated that the laying and repairing of railroad track is potential source of crystalline silica exposure. Read here. In 2001, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) issued a report that indicated that “NIOSH investigators determined that a health hazard existed for railroad track maintenance workers from occupational exposure to crystalline silica.” “The hazard was greatest for workers who operated ballast regulating, broom, and tamping machines and for track repairman who dumped ballast.” “When ballast is moved or disturbed, it generates airborne dust which can be inhaled. This has the potential for causing respiratory disease. The risk for silica dust exposure is greater for employees who work alongside the track as opposed to those situated in the cabs of on-track roadway maintenance machines. A copy of the NIOSH study can be found here.

By Matt Darby

Repetitive Trauma Injuries

Friday, June 29, 2012

The terms repetitive trauma injury refers to a disorder that can affect bones, muscles, tendons, nerves and other anatomical features. It develops when micro traumas, or minute injuries, occur repeatedly from overuse or misappropriate use of a body part or external force applied to the body. A study in 1993 found that repetitive trauma injuries accounted for one of every four lost time injuries reported in the United States.

Injuries to the shoulders, arms, hands and wrists such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar neuropathy can be caused by repetitive trauma. Risk factors for the development of these types of injuries include performing repetitive and forceful work in an awkward position and the use of vibrating tools. Railroaders who routinely use both pneumatic and non-power hand tools, move and carry heavy equipment and couple air hoses are at an increased risk of developing upper extremity repetitive trauma injuries.

Injuries in the form of osteoarthritis to the hips, knees, feet and ankles can also be caused by repetitive trauma. Risk factors for the development of these types of injuries include walking on uneven surfaces, repeatedly bending and stooping and working in awkward postures. Railroaders who routinely walk long distances across ballast, climb rail cars, squat to throw switches and couple air hoses and in the past, dismounted moving equipment, are at an increased risk of developing lower extremity repetitive trauma injuries.

By Matt Darby

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