Railroad construction exposes workers to many health hazards, from power tool injuries to severe burns. One lesser-known risk in this industry is diesel exhaust and fume injuries. Unsafe levels of exposure to diesel engine exhaust and fumes can cause serious and even deadly health problems.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries or illnesses because of diesel exposure as a railroad worker, contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers for a free legal consultation in Chicago. Your employer and/or another party may be legally responsible for your damages. We can help you hold the at-fault party accountable.
How do Diesel Exhaust and Fume Injuries Occur?
Diesel is the most common fuel type used in large engines. Diesel fuel powers many pieces of equipment in the railroad industry, including heavy machinery and manufacturing tools. Diesel engines input crude oil fuel and output gases and soot particles in the form of exhaust. The expulsion of gas and soot from a diesel engine is what can cause serious health risks in nearby workers.
Exhaust fumes in the form of gas contain carbon monoxide, nitric oxide, carbon dioxide, and other substances. The soot contains metal particles, carbon, and organic materials (including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Breathing in the exhaust and fumes from a diesel engine while working on a railroad can lead to a number of health concerns – especially cancer, lung disease, and heart conditions.
A railroad worker might face harmful exposure to diesel exhaust when working with or around diesel-powered equipment. Specialty tools used to break ground, construct railroads, and maintain components can give off harmful exhaust while in use. Many locomotives also operate on diesel fuel – further exposing nearby workers to fumes and exhaust. Each employer has a legal responsibility to calculate the degree of risk workers face when working near diesel engines. Then, employers must create plans for how they will protect employees from related health hazards.
Employer Responsibilities to Railroad Workers
All employers in the United States must follow strict standards when it comes to keeping their employees safe on the job. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has guidelines in place for every industry. Employers must obey OSHA guidelines to reasonably prevent injury and illness to employees. Although OSHA has not specifically established standards for controlling diesel exhaust, it has addressed its components.
OSHA general industry standards for diesel exhaust require personal protective equipment when there is a risk that a worker could suffer a serious injury or illness from workplace hazards. This includes providing respiratory protection if the reasonable risk of diesel exhaust exposure exists. They also require employers to assess a workplace for any toxic substance exposure hazards. Furthermore, the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard requires all employers with hazardous chemicals in their workplaces to offer safety sheets for workers to properly train them.
If an employer breaches its duties of care to railroad workers, resulting in harmful diesel exhaust exposure and related health problems, the employer could be liable for damages. It is up to you as an injured worker to research your rights and discuss your future with a personal injury attorney. Our firm works on a contingency fee basis, so you will not pay anything for our services unless we win you financial compensation.
Medical Complications From Exposure to Diesel Fumes
Railroad workers should not breathe in diesel fumes or exhaust. Inhaling the chemical compounds in the exhaust can lead to silicates, abrasive metallic particles, carbon, ash, and chemicals in the body. Breathing in diesel soot or fumes can cause severe health issues in the long and short terms. Short-term exposure can cause symptoms such as respiratory and eye irritation, headaches, and dizziness – health problems that can be enough to make it impossible to continue working.
Lung cancer is one of the most common diseases associated with exposure to diesel exhaust. Exhaust may cause cancer by making changes to DNA within the cells. Lab studies have shown that long-term exposure to diesel exhaust can cause cancer in lab animals. Other studies of workers have shows significant increases in the risk of lung cancer. Railroad workers are among those with the highest risk of lung cancer death due to diesel exhaust exposure.
Other health risks linked to diesel exhaust exposure are cancers of the stomach, esophagus, bladder, pancreas, and larynx. Blood system cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma could also have connections to diesel exhaust inhalation (some studies have found links, while others have not). Aside from different cancers, diesel exhaust may also cause cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary complications, as well as respiratory disease.
Your treatment options after receiving a diagnosis for a diesel-exhaust related illness will depend on your condition. If you have lung cancer, for example, your treatment options may include chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy. A lung transplant might also be an option. Treatments for eye and lung irritation may include thorough rinsing of the area, oxygen therapy, and medical observation in case of the need for intubation. Unfortunately, some health effects from diesel exhaust exposure may be lifelong.
What are Your Rights as an Injured Railroad Worker?
Prolonged exposure to toxic diesel exhaust or fumes in railroad work can cause serious and disabling medical conditions. It is possible to control railroad workers’ exposure to diesel fumes to prevent health problems. Employers can perform preventive maintenance to diesel engines to reduce emissions, install exhaust filters, use special fuels, filter the air in vehicle cabs, upgrade old ventilation systems, restrict engine idling, and provide personal protection such as masks.
If an employer negligently fails to prevent diesel exhaust and fume exposure, resulting in injuries or illnesses to workers, that employer could be liable for damages. The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) gives railroad workers the right to file lawsuits against their employers for alleged negligence. FELA is what railroad workers have instead of workers’ compensation. FELA claims provide a greater opportunity for compensation, but they require employees to prove negligence.
Winning a FELA claim in Illinois will take proving that FELA applies, that the employer was negligent, and that this negligence caused the injury or illness in question. Proving your claim may require an investigation of your diesel exhaust exposure. Hiring a lawyer can help. A law firm can help you gather evidence against the railroad, such as proof that the employer did not provide proper diesel exhaust safety training or equipment or failed to assess the risk of health hazards.
Damages Recoverable Through a FELA Claim
A successful FELA claim for harmful exposure to diesel fumes at a railroad site could result in payment for all your related costs and losses. You could receive payment for your past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and lost quality of life. If you lost a loved one due to a related illness or cancer, your family may be eligible for additional wrongful death damages. Our firm has recovered millions of dollars on behalf of past clients. Speak to an attorney to discuss the value of your particular case.
Contact Our Railroad Injury Attorneys Today
Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers has experience handling a variety of railroad injury and illness claims in Illinois. We have the personnel, resources, and compassion to make a strong claim for damages on your behalf. If you or someone you love has suffered an injury or illness because of preventable exposure to diesel exhaust, contact us for a free consultation. We can come to your home or hospital if you cannot make it to our Chicago office. Call (888) 424-5757 for professional help today.