Occupational Disease & Toxic Exposure

Occupational Disease & Toxic Exposure

Occupational Disease Lawyers for Railroad Workers

For decades, railroaders unknowingly worked in toxic environments, exposed to carcinogens, chemicals, and airborne particles that the railroad industry knew caused cancer and other serious illnesses. Instead of warning the workers of these hazards, the railroad industry often tried to cover up evidence of toxic exposure and dangerous occupational diseases. Using the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA), railroad workers who become ill, especially when their employer did not create a safe working environment, can seek compensation.

At Bolt Law Firm, we proudly offer our legal counsel to railroad workers—from mechanics and welders to conductors and drivers—who contracted an occupational disease due to workplace toxic exposure. With our decades of collective practice experience and thorough understanding of FELA rules and regulations, we are poised to help railroad workers in virtually any occupational disease claim or lawsuit.

We can work on a wide range of railroad occupational disease and toxic exposure cases, including:

  • Cancers and mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos.
  • Cancers and respiratory diseases caused by diesel exhaust.
  • Exposure to benzene, creosote, and other substances.

Want to know if you can file a FELA claim as an injured or ill railroad worker? Call (763) 292-2102 now.

Common Sources of Railroad Worker Illnesses

Bolt Law Firm in Minnesota is ready to help workers in the railroad industry who have been exposed to toxic substances and subsequently were diagnosed with an occupational illness. Let us use our resources to investigate your case and the circumstances surrounding your toxic exposure, so we can see the best path forward in pursuit of the compensation and/or benefits that you deserve.

Diesel Exhaust

Diesel exhaust contains chemical compound particulates, chemicals, and hard metals such as:

  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Nitrogen oxides
  • Polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)
  • Benzene

Individually, these chemicals and metal particulates have long been known to cause cancer. Combined, they create a high risk of occupational disease for those in frequent contact with diesel exhaust and smoke.

The railroad industry knew or should have known that exposure to diesel exhaust could cause disease, but did not ventilate cabs, replace equipment, or even warn workers. Often the risk was compounded when rear-facing locomotive units blew exhaust and emitted fumes directly into the trailing locomotive, or when locomotives were sent into insufficiently ventilated tunnels or facilities.

Scientific studies and medical literature illustrate the connection between diesel exhaust and occupational diseases. Diesel fumes are particularly dangerous, as microscopic particulates and chemicals, not visible to the eye, lodge deep into the lungs when breathed in. They remain lodged in the lungs because the body is unable to clear the particles by coughing alone.

Railroaders in many different crafts are at risk of exhaust exposure, including:

  • Engineers
  • Conductors
  • Firemen
  • Brakemen
  • Yard tower workers
  • Shop workers
  • Maintenance crewmembers
  • And others

Workers with diseases caused by diesel exhaust, or families of those who died from these diseases, are entitled to compensation if the railroad knew or should have known about the dangers of diesel exhaust.

Asbestos Exposure

Asbestos exposure creates a significant risk for railroad workers, as it was a common material used in my pieces of equipment and machinery.

Asbestos was once a very common component of train and railway insulation on:

  • Mains
  • Pipes
  • Boilers
  • Brakes
  • Gaskets
  • Railcar insulation

Asbestos manufacturers and the railroad industry were aware early on that asbestos could cause severe diseases and deadly cancers like mesothelioma. But neither industry warned of the hazards of exposure to asbestos dust, provided safety equipment, or abated asbestos from the workplace until decades later. Today many railroad workers suffer from asbestos-related diseases.

Because of the railroad industry’s widespread use of asbestos in the 20th century and the fact that symptoms may not appear for 20 to 50 years, mesothelioma diagnoses are common among railroad workers even today. Our FELA attorneys can still make claims for railroad workers diagnosed with mesothelioma and other diseases caused by exposure to asbestos as long as the claim begins before the statute of limitations expires. Typically, the three-year FELA statute of limitations begins at the time that you knew or should have known that the railroad’s failure to provide a safe workplace caused an occupational disease such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, or lymphoma. It can be difficult to identify this exact date, so it is important to contact our experienced FELA attorneys of Bolt Law Firm as soon as you’re aware of the diagnosis and you or your doctor suspect that exposure occurred on the railroad.

Asbestos Exposure from Steam Locomotives & Boilers

Insulating materials used on steam locomotives are among some of the most dangerous sources of asbestos exposure in the railroad industry. Many railroads used steam locomotives well into the 1960s. Steam locomotives were loaded with asbestos, on both the exterior of the engine and inside the engine cab. Asbestos insulation called lagging or magnesium, large insulating blankets of pure asbestos, covered the outside of steam locomotives.

Asbestos insulation surrounded boilers on steam locomotives as well. The steam pipes were covered with asbestos insulation or insulating tape. Firemen and other workers needed to keep the fire going by feeding coal into the engine firebox, which was also insulated with asbestos. Jostling and vibrations from the regular use of the locomotives would shake fibers free and release them into the air. The lack of ventilation in the locomotives would circulate the asbestos fibers throughout the cabs, compounding the problem. Even though these microscopic fibers were not visible, they were deadly. Mesothelioma develops slowly, over decades, so railroad workers exposed to these fibers are still being diagnosed.

Before the transition to diesel locomotives, every railroad employee who worked on, repaired, maintained, or encountered locomotives had a significant chance of frequent asbestos exposure.

Asbestos Exposure from Diesel Locomotives

Contrary to information promoted by railroads, the end of the steam engine era did not end the asbestos era for railroad locomotives. Many gaskets were made of asbestos, fibers of which would shed from the gaskets into the air. Parts of the engines, radios, and insulation all contained asbestos. Some railroads continued to use diesel locomotives that contained asbestos into the 1990s.

Asbestos Exposure from Roundhouses & Railroad Shops

Workers in and near roundhouses and shops came in frequent, if not constant, contact with large amounts of asbestos, where insulation, gaskets, brakes, pipes, and many other items were dismantled and installed. Typically, sheets of asbestos would be brought into the roundhouses, and workers would cut, shave, and manipulate them for their intended use. Repairs of locomotives and railroad cars caused stripping of asbestos.

The dangers of asbestos exposure increased because it occurred in enclosed areas with poor ventilation. The constant disturbance of asbestos products resulted in the release of immeasurable asbestos fibers into the air, which were then inhaled by railroad workers in or near roundhouses and shops.

These dangerous practices continued well into the 1960s. Despite the high use of asbestos—and the railroad industry’s knowledge of the hazards since the 1930s—the railroads did not inform their workers of the dangers or provide respiratory equipment, ventilation, or other basic safety measures. Because of the high use of and exposure to released asbestos, roundhouse and shop workers experience some of the highest rates of asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestos-induced lung diseases, asbestosis, and asbestos cancers.

Asbestos Exposure from Brake Shoes

Asbestos is cheap, extremely durable, and very effective in high friction and heat situations. This made asbestos particularly attractive for use in railroad brakes. Some railroads used asbestos in brake shoes well into the 1990s. The friction and grinding of basic use, as well as jostling and scraping when replacing brake shoes, released heavy amounts of asbestos fibers into the air.

Other Sources of Railroad Worker Asbestos Exposure

Railroad workers and contractors were exposed to asbestos in many other ways. Cabooses contained large amounts of asbestos in their ceilings and floors. Rail cars, especially refrigeration cars, were insulated with asbestos. Asbestos was used in yard offices and other railroad buildings, as well as steam pipes. Railroad workers even encountered asbestos in bunks, housing, and hotels. Many spouses were exposed when their husbands unknowingly brought asbestos into the home on their clothes.

Already in the 1930s, railroad executives knew that asbestos was a problem and that simple measures could be taken to reduce exposure. However, for decades railroad companies did nothing to abate, warn workers, or even provide simple safety measures to reduce their workers’ exposure to asbestos.

Compensation for Railroad Worker Occupational Diseases

Suffering an occupational disease as a railroad worker can threaten your health and livelihood. If you are too sick to continue working, then you won’t be able to earn a wage, which might mean that you can’t afford the medical care that you need. The compounding problems make it nearly a necessity to use legal action to demand compensation.

We can help you demand compensation that provides for these damages and more:

  • Medical treatment costs
  • Lost wages, benefits, and earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Shortened life expectancy
  • Lessened enjoyment of life
  • Death benefits if you lost a loved one

FELA Statute of Limitations for Railroad Worker Claims

Claims against railroads under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) must be brought within three years of when the worker knew or should have known that the occupational disease/wrongful death was caused or may have been caused by exposure to asbestos or another hazardous substance while working for a railroad. Claims against manufacturers and other third parties may have different statutes, as will claims for spouses and non-railroad employees, so you should take action as soon as possible.

Call Our Railroad Occupational Illness Attorneys Now

No two asbestos or mesothelioma cases are alike. Trust the knowledgeable railroad toxic exposure lawyers of Bolt Law Firm for personalized, comprehensive representation that sees you as a friend in need, not just a case number. We can handle your case with care and commitment to achieve the best possible outcome.

Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.

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