No kind of workplace can be made 100 percent safe from accidents, but Connecticut and federal laws require employers to take reasonable steps to protect workers from safety hazards. When a simple and affordable device can make a big difference in protecting workers from a serious accident at work, employers should use the device.

Metro-North Railroad recently announced that it would begin using a $200 device that protects workers on railroad tracks after a track foreman was killed by a train while working at a new train station that was under construction near West Haven. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said the device probably could have saved the man’s life had it been in place at the time of the accident.

According to Metro-North, the fatal accident happened when a student controller switched off a safety control that would have kept the train away from the foreman. The incident prompted widespread criticism of the railroad’s safety precautions. In response to the criticism, the railroad said it would begin using the inexpensive shunting devices that send a signal to controllers, telling them when a track must be kept closed. The incident is currently under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board.

Railroad employees were some of the first workers to be protected by workplace safety laws when Congress passed the Federal Employees Liability Act (FELA) in 1908. To this day, FELA provides benefits for railroad workers who are injured on the job. This law is different from workers’ compensation laws, in that the injured worker must prove employer negligence in order to be compensated for damage.

Workers’ compensation provides for a package of benefits designed to compensate injured workers for their damages according to predetermined guidelines. When a worker is killed on the job, the worker’s family may collect benefits. FELA provides similar benefits when negligence is proven on the part of the employer.

Workers in Connecticut who have been injured while in the course of their employment should get help researching the best ways to go about getting the benefits they need. The medical expenses, lost wages and other damages that come with workplace injuries can be enormous and it is vital that the injured and their families get all the help that they need in dealing with the aftermath of a workplace accident.

Source: The Hartford Courant, “Metro-North will use safety devices following foreman’s death,” Wes Duplantier, June 21, 2013