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Fatigue contributes to railroad worker injuries

Trying to perform any job while exhausted is difficult. Fatigue may cause a person to be confused, have slow reaction time and make poor decisions. This is why industries that are inherently dangerous -- such as those involving trucking, construction and the railroads -- are trying to reduce the probability that workers will have to perform their duties with inadequate sleep. As a result of this effort, railroad worker injuries in Connecticut and across the country have declined over the past years, although authorities would like the see the numbers go even lower.

Compared to similarly dangerous industries, railroads have the lowest numbers of reported employee injuries. Air transportation, trucking, mining and construction all show higher rates of injuries. In fact, since 2000, the number of railroad employee injuries has dropped 46 percent. Advocates of rail safety credit improved regulations governing rest hours for workers. The Hours of Service Act details the number of work and rest hours for engineers and conductors.

After 12 hours of work, engineers and conductors must have 10 consecutive hours of rest before receiving their next assignment. For every six consecutive days of work, they are required to have two days off. Like truckers, many train employees do not have set schedules but must work according to the volume of work, the seasons and various other factors. This makes it difficult for many to settle into a regular sleep pattern.

By providing fatigue education programs and sleep disorder screening, the industry is making an effort to reduce railroad worker injuries caused by lack of sleep. Nevertheless, when an injury occurs, it is often catastrophic. Since Connecticut rail employees must seek compensation through FELA instead of workers' compensation, the assistance of a lawyer as soon as possible after an injury may improve the worker's chances of recovering damages.

Source: aar.org, "Fighting Fatigue in the Rail Industry", Accessed on March 14, 2017

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