The railroad industry is one of the most dangerous in the United States. Engineers, train operators, maintenance crews and other employees are put in harm's way on a daily basis as they work around moving rail cars and trains weighing up to 20,000 tons that can sever limbs and crush bodies in a split second. Additionally, many railroad employees are regularly exposed to harmful substances, such as asbestos, diesel fumes, PCB's, chemicals, cleaning solvents, and rail dust that can result in lung disorders, illness and even brain injury.
You'd think that with serious dangers like these, railroad companies would take extraordinary precautions to keep workers safe. Yet railroads are notorious for failing to provide safe places to work and former President Benjamin Harrison even compared the threat to railroad workers to that of soldiers in combat. Railroad injuries were so commonplace at one time that the federal legislature felt compelled to enact the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) to provide railroad employees with a means of seeking fair compensation from the railroad they worked for if injured on the job.