Railroad Asbestos Cases

James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. has represented many people with railroad claims. People who worked on railroads were exposed to many products and materials that contained asbestos, especially during the days when steam engines were used. Not surprisingly, many of these workers developed asbestos related diseases, such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. In many cases, they were not diagnosed with such diseases until several years after they retired.

Steam locomotives were essentially boilers on wheels, and the boiler under the metal jacket was insulated with a material called "85 Mag," that was approximately 85% magnesium carbonate and 15% asbestos. Magnesium carbonate was also found in Milk of Magnesia, a common antacid, and was used many years ago to keep table salt from clumping during humid weather. Unfortunately, the other component of 85 Mag, asbestos, was not so benign. Railway workers who built or repaired or overhauled steam locomotives were often exposed to large amounts of airborne asbestos dust from boiler insulation. Asbestos was also found on steam locomotives in pipe wrap, gaskets and packing.

Even when steam locomotives were replaced with diesels, railway workers could still be exposed to asbestos from a variety of sources, including insulation that covered steam pipes and boilers used to heat buildings. Asbestos insulation was also used on steam cranes. Diesel engines contained asbestos in gaskets, packings, electrical insulation, cab ceilings, and steam generators in the back of the cab used to supply steam to heat passenger and mail cars. Cabooses often had asbestos heat shields under and behind coal stoves. Track crews could be exposed to asbestos used in insulated joints, and in asbestos ropes that were soaked in oil, then set on fire, to heat rails and make them expand. This was commonly done during cold weather when rails contracted and caused "pull aparts," or rail separations. Track crews also used asbestos gloves and thermite crucibles with asbestos disks for welding.

The railroads discussed the health hazards of dust in general, and asbestos in particular, at meetings of their medical officers held as early as the 1930s. Unfortunately, the railroads did not start educating their workers about the risks of asbestos exposure and how to protect themselves until much later. Even simple protective measures such as wetting down dust, using respiratory protection in the form of dust masks and respirators, and providing ventilation, were not employed for many years.

Railway workers who are injured on the job can not apply for workers compensation like many workers, but they can seek relief through a federal law known as FELA, which stands for the Federal Employers Liability Act. FELA actions differ in many ways from traditional lawsuits for personal injury. There are special rules which apply to the liability of the railroad, what damages can be recovered, and when lawsuits may be brought.

If you or a loved one have developed an asbestos related disease because of working with or around asbestos on the railroad, please contact our firm at 304-347-5050 (local) or 877-341-2595 (toll free) for a free consultation. You may also contact us through our website, www.jfhumphreys.com. James F. Humphreys & Associates, L.C. has successfully obtained compensation for many railway workers who were exposed to asbestos at work and developed asbestos related diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.