Railroad work can be some of the most dangerous work in the country. It is important for employers to follow regulations and maintain safe working environments for the brave workers who take on railroad work.
Unfortunately, we know there are times when railroad companies don’t perform their due diligence when it comes to workplace safety.
Some workers might fear retaliation when they mention workplace safety violations. However, we at Roven Camp in Houston, Texas know your rights, and we are prepared to fight for them. Let us walk you through your protected rights under OSHA.
What is OSHA?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was created in 1970 as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.
As a department of the U.S. Department of Labor, the administration ensures safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance.
When it comes to the railroad industry, in 2007, OSHA was granted the authority to provide railroad workers with whistleblower protection. OSHA works to protect the rights of railroad workers who report a railroad’s wrongdoing or unsafe practices.
How does OSHA protect railroad workers?
Railroad companies will sometimes attempt to fire, harass or intimidate whistleblower employees.
But per the U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA states all railroad employees have the right to:
- Get training from your employer as required by OSHA standards.
- Request information from your employer about OSHA standards, worker injuries and illnesses, job hazards, and workers’ rights.
- Request action from your employer to correct hazards or violations.
- File a complaint with OSHA if you believe there are either violations of OSHA standards or serious workplace hazards.
- Be involved in OSHA’s inspection of your workplace.
- Find out the results of an OSHA inspection.
- Get involved in meetings or hearings to discuss objections your employer has to OSHA’s citations or to changes in abatement deadlines.
- File a formal appeal of deadlines for correction of hazards.
- File a discrimination complaint.
- Request a research investigation on possible workplace hazards.
- Provide comments and testimony to OSHA during rulemaking on new standards.
More Information about OSHA
The duty of an employer under OSHA requires that workers be provided a place of employment that is “free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
Thus, if the workplace is unsafe, the OSHA is violated.
The OSHA law covers railroad workers where another federal agency has not exercised authority over the particular working condition involved. Therefore, it is necessary to determine whether the Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration issued a rule or regulation over a specific working condition. If not, the OSHA laws are applicable.
For example, the OSHA law has authority in rail yards and shops, whereas the rails themselves are covered under the FRA’s rules and regulations.
Other activity protected under OSHA includes:
- Refusing to violate any federal law, rule, or regulation relating to railroad safety or security.
- Reporting a hazardous safety or security condition.
- Reporting a work-related injury or illness.
- Accurately reporting hours of duty.
- Refusing to work when confronted with a hazardous safety or security condition.
- Requesting medical or first-aid treatment.
OSHA Complaints and Inspections
Railroad employees have the right to report potential violations or workplace hazards to their local OSHA office. Concerned employees need to file written complaints, though they can be made anonymously.
The local OSHA office will then investigate the issue and, if deemed necessary, inspect the workplace regarding the violation. Following the inspection, the compliance officer will meet with the employer and employee representative(s) to discuss any hazards found and require rectifications.
It is also the right of the worker for a workers’ representative to accompany the compliance officer during the inspection. The representative must be chosen by the union or by one of the employees – not by the railroad company or by the local OSHA office.
Choosing a representative to attend the tour can help preserve a whistleblower’s anonymity, while also ensuring that all parties complete their due diligence to rectify potential safety violations.
If the evidence supports an employee’s complaint of retaliation, OSHA will issue an order requiring the employer to put the employee back to work, pay lost wages, etc., depending on the facts of the case.
If the evidence does not support the employee’s complaint, OSHA will dismiss the complaint.
After OSHA issues a decision, the employer and/or the employee may request a full hearing before an administrative law judge of the Department of Labor. The employee also has the option to file a complaint in federal court if no final decision is issued within 7 months.
Contact Roven Camp Houston railroad injury attorneys today
From our home base in Houston, TX, our team of railroad injury lawyers has years of experience defending the rights of whistleblowers and injured railroad workers. Railroad work is some of the most dangerous work in the country, and you deserve someone to stand for your justice.
If your rights have been violated, there is justice to be served. Contact our professional and respected team at Roven Camp today to learn more – including how we can help you file a claim against those responsible for your injury. We fight to protect you.