In our earlier blog, You and the Claims Rep: The Claims Rep Is Not Your Friend, I referenced the fact that railroading has always been considered an extremely dangerous occupation. Add exploding rail cars caused by highly combustible crude oil to the list of dangers.
America is going through an oil boom. Enormous oil reserves have been discovered in North Dakota. There is no pipeline in the region. How is the oil getting to Eastern refineries? On the railcars you are engineering, conducting, and inspecting. On the rails that you are repairing and maintaining.
Unfortunately, the only boom that may affect you is the sound of oil exploding after a derailment. The rails on which the cars go on are old. The railcars that are carrying the oil are even older and have paper thin shells that don’t comply with modern safety standards. And to top it off, the North Dakota oil has a lower flash point than standard crude. A three part recipe for disaster. Evidenced by seven accidents in the past year including a derailment and fire that killed 47 people in Canada and an explosion that forced the evacuation of a part of Lynchburg, Virginia.
So be careful out there. The overtime you are getting as a result of the oil boom always comes at a price. You know you are working on outdated and dangerous equipment and the product in that equipment is unstable. Protect yourself. Report any irregularities or defects in the equipment. The same goes for rail and signal inspections.
Make sure that you are not short-handed. Trying to do the job of two people leaves you tired and twice as likely to make a mistake. Remember to document everything and keep a copy for yourself.
Heed the words from my previous blog. In the event of an incident where you sustain an injury and are considering making a claim under FELA – the claims rep is not your friend. Document problems and watch what you say.