The Chicago Occupational Accident Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Represent Chicago Transit Authority Workers
The Chicago Transit Authority Workers are transportation professionals charged with the duty of moving 1.6 million passengers to their daily destinations throughout the Chicago metropolitan area along a pre-assigned route. In addition to transporting more than 500 million passengers every year, workers are also responsible for following all transit rules and maintaining a safe environment for themselves, passengers, and others along their route while dealing with potential delays.
Transit operators managing the CTA train and bus systems must guide their vehicle safely through all weather conditions and heavily congested traffic on the roads and rails. The worker must obey all traffic laws, adhere to their preassigned schedule and ensure that every passenger arrives safely at their destination. While most CTA workers are not required to have a formal advanced degree to maintain their job, they must be fully trained and how to operate their vehicle following company policies and state/federal regulations.
Other CTA employees work on the system by repairing and maintaining train and bus vehicles and the tracks, rails, and infrastructure used to transport passengers. Most employees of the transit system work odd hours, often with minimal supervision during the evening and overnight shifts. Working in isolation often places them at greater risk of incidents, accidents, and tragedies occurring during the evening and early morning hours.
A Dangerous Occupation
All employees of the Chicago Transit Authority are vulnerable to the threat of violence and susceptible to physical attacks at the least unexpected moment. Reports of bus drivers and train operators being assaulted at gunpoint or with the knife are all too common events in dense urban environments. Many Chicago’s unresolved social issues have been expressed through hostile acts toward transit operators who are only performing the duties of their job at all hours of the day and night.
Along with the potential of physical dangers, CTA workers are often the target of frustrated individuals who may complain about a delayed arrival, the vehicle’s bad condition, or another factor out of control of the operator. Most employees who have successfully maintained their job for years survived because they devised effective coping strategies to keep on schedule while minimizing disruptive activities from complaining patrons.
The efforts of the operator to maintain a safe environment for passengers is accomplished while remaining vigilant to avoid an accident that could arise at any moment. To maintain safety, bus drivers and train operators must continually respond to the continuing bombardment of incoming signals, ever-changing traffic conditions, uncontrollable weather and construction projects along their route.
Typically, CTA Workers pay a heavy price to remain on the job. The excessive stress levels can wreak havoc on their health, placing a burden on the musculoskeletal system, G.I. tract, blood vessels, and heart. Many transportation workers are a part of a special occupational group that is at considerable risk for ischemic heart disease, hypertension, and other serious medical problems. The human toll of the stressful job often plays out with high absenteeism, unpaid days off, unexpected disability, changes in occupation, and early retirement.
Chicago’s NBC 5 investigated the level of crime occurring on the rapid transit system in the metropolitan area. The results of the month-long investigation revealed no improvement in the violence occurring on the system that transports more than a million individuals every day. Their investigation reported that the 95th/Dan Ryan CTA Station rank highest as the most dangerous locations in the metropolitan area. The Roosevelt Station in the 69th St. station tied for second on the Red and Green lines.
The incidents of theft occurred more often at busy downtown stations including Jackson, Clark & Lake, State & Lake, Chicago Avenue, and 95th/Dan Ryan. Even though there were major changes made a few years ago including the installation of 3600 cameras that monitor the CTA train system, crime has yet to be deterred. Only one in four crimes occurring on the CTA system end in an arrest.
Transit Worker Assaults
Most occupations do not require the worker to continuously worry about being punched, hollered at, spit on, denigrated, stabbed or shot while being robbed or assaulted. Unfortunately, CTA workers, especially those employed to operate buses, trains and transit stations are highly susceptible to serious attacks that cause injury and death.
There’s been a significant increase in the intensity of senseless robberies, physical attacks, and assaults on transit workers in Chicago, and nationwide in recent years. The results of severe injury often leave lifelong physical, emotional and mental scars. Common injuries suffered by CTA Workers include deep puncture wounds, broken facial bones, cuts, and lacerations. The damage to their mental capacity and psyche are likely just as bad. Some cases involving attack, and assault, and victimization of CTA workers include:
- Case 1: April 2017 – A 79-year-old passenger on the CTA bus was spotted by the female bus driver molesting a fourteen-year-old girl. The bus driver reacted quickly by slamming on the brakes, locking the doors and calling the police. Even so, Carlos De La Torre still fled the scene after another passenger showed the suspect how to use bus emergency lever.
- Case 2: December 2014 – A man on Chicago’s South Side pled guilty to sexually assaulting and robbing a CTA employee and was sentenced to twenty-six years in prison. The Cook County court accepted a guilty plea from 21-year-old Devante Willis, for aggravated criminal sexual assault with a firearm. The incident occurred on December 30, 2014. At the time of the incident, Willis was on probation for a previous conviction of robbery.
- Case 3: May 2017 – Chicago’s ABC 7 Eyewitness News I-Team Investigators filed a report of Chicago Transit Authority incidences where bus drivers live in fear of violent, unruly passengers. The investigators obtained city records of CTA operators who required medical attention over the last few years from passenger attacks, with and without firearms and stun guns. Officials running the Transit Authority say the incident rates for violence has significantly reduced because of the installation of security cameras, onboard panic buttons, and extensive employee training. However, the bus drivers have responded that they still require more protection.
In 2014, Chicago’s NBC 5 investigated the Chicago Transit Authority to measure its rapid transit results on accidents and safety. The report revealed less than stellar results. Chicago CTA ranked highest in fatalities, compared to New York, Washington, and San Francisco. The CTA averages six deaths per year, though most of those deaths were not passengers or workers on trains. Next, the CTA ranked first in collision rates averaging 15 crashes per year, and highest in train derailment rates, with five occurring in 2013. Chicago ranked third with an average of 413 injuries occurring every year.
CTA System Worker
Living life as a professional bus driver or train operator in the city’s CTA system can be a stressful occupation, especially at certain times of the day when traffic becomes dense during rush hours. Usually, the driver works alone, and when emergencies arise on the public service system, the driver tends to be vulnerable to an unruly passenger or others bent on creating a serious offense.
The operator is required to stay alert and focused on maintaining safety while fighting through dense traffic to remain on schedule. Working in the heat of the summer and the bitter cold of Chicago’s winter inclement weather can decrease visibility and create challenges. Bus operators must and maneuver a long wide bus down many of Chicago’s narrow streets that were never designed for mass transit. Train operators must remain aware of unexpected debris, people or objects on the rail tracks and take immediate corrective action to avoid derailment, crash, collision or another type of accident.
Typically, the bus system workers are exposed to excessive noise, air pollutants, dehydration, and stress that are only exacerbated by changing shift work schedules. In detail, these include:
- Excessive Noise – The city’s bus system travels along some of Chicago’s busiest streets filled with other trucks, passenger cars and commercial vehicles crossing the pathways of the CTA rail system. On busy days, the sounds of the street can produce excessive noise rating at 80 dB or higher. Long-term exposure to ongoing volumes of excessive noise can be tiring and damaging to the ears. The high-frequency sounds of dense traffic can dull the senses. Workers must be proactive to prevent hearing damage by diverting the sound while wearing earplugs to reduce the exposure to the noise.
- Polluted Air – The air quality above Chicago’s metropolitan area is highly concentrated with heavy pollutants that can cause significant long-term health problems for CTA workers performing their duties on city streets. The city’s busiest routes are usually crowded with the dense population driving, riding, and walking to their destination. The same routes are heavily polluted with highly toxic materials and gases including sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and diesel particulates. The most extreme polluted areas are at busy intersections densely populated with idling cars and trucks.
- Dehydration – CTA employees working different shifts often have their biological clocks disrupted when they work the day shift one week and the night shift another, followed by working the evening shift. Continually changing schedules upset nutritional and hydration intake and create disruptive sleeping patterns, increasing the worker’s fatigue and appetite. Employees on changing shifts typically eat more, drink less, and feel sleeping for days until the body readjusts to a new time clock.
- Muscle and Joint Pain – Most bus drivers and train operators for the CTA spend hours sitting in place behind the wheel. The sedentary position often leads to extensive muscle weakness with increased tension and stress. Nearly every professional bus driver and train operator reports experiencing extensive lower back pain, sore neck, stiff shoulders, and overall weakness.
What to Do
There are certain steps that every CTA workers can take to minimize the potential risk of being injured on the job. Some of the steps include:
- Avoid taking shift work when possible
- Take an active role in creating an effective schedule with your manager to increase their sensitivity to your health and family time,
- Speak with a medical professional and undergo routine physical exams to detect serious health problems early
- Wear earplugs when exposed to excessive noise
- Exercise and maintain a healthy weight
- Eat a nutritious diet and stay physically fit
- Take efforts to manage sleeping issues including using meditation techniques and learning relaxation methods.
Chicago CTA Worker Wages
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016, involving employment statistics of the previous year, there were 6370 Chicago Transit Authority Workers at work in the Chicago metropolitan area. These statistics reveal that Transit Authority Employees in northeastern Illinois earned $26.49 per hour, or $55,100 annually, on average. These earning wages are significantly higher than the national averages. See Chart
How to Obtain Compensation to Ensure Your Financial Recovery
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