The tune of “I’ve been working on the railroad” makes working for a railway sound like a joyful, carefree time. Just like any job, however, the industry comes with its particular workplace safety threats. Just like any industry, its workers have the right to report job-related injuries and unsafe work conditions without fear of retaliation.
OSHA has stepped in to uphold that right for railway workers in Texas, though the actions could effect change for railway workers in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. as well. Reports of retaliation moved OSHA to address the work safety issues threatening railway workers and to put higher-ups in their place after having punished workers who were injured.
Among the changed personnel policies that BNSF Railway Co. must follow is that they cannot keep a worker on probation from his job for a longer time simply because he was injured. That tactic has been used as more of a form of punishment rather than a kindness to allow a worker to heal. Workers for the railway will no longer receive what is basically a strike against them for getting injured on the job. That policy prevents workers from reporting an injury and can, therefore, lead to unsafe conditions going unaddressed.
Workers of all fields should not only feel safe in their work environments, but they should feel that it is safe to report potential health hazards. When management has policies and attitudes that scare workers out of reporting threats and injuries, they are setting the scene for work accidents to continue. OSHA is requiring management of the railway to go through training that will better educate them about their roles regarding safety.
Source: OHS Online, “BNSF Agrees to Change Policies Involving On-the-Job Injuries,” Jan. 16, 2013