Men (and later, women) have been working on the railroad since the early years of the 19th century. Railways in the United States were used first for transporting goods and then for carrying people from place to place, opening the country to exploration and allowing it to grow in leaps and bounds to what it is today. And while the first choice of mode of transportation for travelers today isn’t necessarily a train, many industries, companies, and avid wanderers still use locomotives, and trains of all sorts continue to travel each day along the tens of thousands of miles of track that dot America’s landscape.
Life as a railroad worker has never been a proverbial walk-in-the-park, especially in the early days of rail transportation. But even into the 20th century, many dangers existed for those who built and laid track, inspected or repaired the rails, built trains, or helped run our nation’s rail systems in some other capacity.
Around the 1930s and 1940s, many of the companies that built locomotives began to use parts that contained asbestos. This added yet another layer of danger to what many railroad workers viewed as an already hazardous job. Employees who may have had asbestos exposure. Containing materials include:
• Track layers
• Maintenance equipment operators
Even individuals who weren’t directly employed by a railroad but were subcontractors working on the rails may have been exposed to rail-related asbestos-containing items. This includes:
• Iron workers
• Machine operators
• And many others!
Any number of items used in railroad building or maintenance might have contained asbestos. Often, these items were manipulated or compromised in some way, resulting in the likely release of asbestos fibers into the air, where they could easily be inhaled, especially by those working in close quarters and areas with little ventilation. Some of the asbestos items encountered on the job may have included:
• Brake pads and linings
• Sealing cement
Studies often show that the bulk of the asbestos exposure occurred from the 1940s to the 1970s and much of it occurred before the change from steam to diesel locomotives. Research outlined in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine demonstrated that older workers once associated with the repair of steam locomotives had the highest probability of asbestos exposure. While many of those individuals have no doubt passed away by this time, many from asbestos-related diseases, current lawsuits involving companies like CSX, Ohio Railway, Northfolk & Western, and others prove that exposure to asbestos remained a problem in the years that followed.
Railroad employees, past and present, who are suffering from the effects of asbestos exposure should educate themselves as to their rights for compensation for negligent exposure to items containing this toxic mineral. Take a few minutes to chat with an experienced mesothelioma attorney to learn more about the options.