The warm, sunny days of summer are back! And, so are the insects! Some insects are a nuisance when working outdoors, but some insects can actually be quite dangerous to your health.
RAILROAD'S DUTY TO PROVIDE A SAFE WORK PLACE
The railroad has a duty to provide you with a safe work environment. This duty still applies when working outdoors and facing possible exposure to disease-carrying insects, poisonous foliage or extreme heat. If, after having notice of stagnant pools of water, ticks in an area, extreme temperatures with no means to keep hydrated, etc., the railroad fails to take action to provide a safe work environment, it may be held liable if you become sick.
In the landmark case of Gallick v. Baltimore & Ohio R. R. Co., the railroad allowed a stagnant pool to remain next to its tracks in Ohio where many dead animals lay. Gallick, a railroad worker, was bitten by an insect next to the pool, sustained an infection and eventually had both legs amputated. The Supreme Court affirmed a verdict for this railroader holding that the railroad had a duty to protect against such hazards.
The Long Island Railroad was also held liable for failure to provide protection against ticks when it knew or should have known its maintenance of way workers were exposed to ticks, whose bites caused the workers to contract Lyme Disease.
THE RAILROAD ON NOTICE
Although the railroad has a duty to inspect for signs of problems, reporting these unsafe conditions keeps the railroad from “overlooking” these matters and puts the railroad on notice. Reporting these unsafe conditions imposes upon the railroad the responsibility to take actions to protect you and your co-workers in your work environment. If the railroad then fails to take action to correct the unsafe conditions and you become sick, the evidence of written notice to the railroad will support your potential Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) claim.
It's important if you are at work and see unsafe conditions such as standing water, insect infestations, dead animals, etc., you report it to railroad management. Be sure to detail where the problem is located in the yard or where you are required to work and are exposed to the unsafe condition.
KNOW THE PROBLEMS AND HOW TO AVOID THEM
If you know you've been bitten by a mosquito or a tick, don't confuse the symptoms with the flu. (Additional information on Vector Borne Diseases is available from Carol Menges, President, UTU Ladies Auxiliary.)
MOSQUITOES & WEST NILE VIRUS
Most people will be bitten by mosquitoes and have no problems, even if they are infected with the West Nile Virus. Only a small percentage of people develop mild symptoms which could include: fever; headache; body aches; fatigue; upset stomach; swollen glands or skin rash. An even smaller percentage of people may develop more serious symptoms which could include: stiff neck; high fever; severe headache; convulsions or disorientation.
Symptoms of West Nile Virus may not be noticeable for up to 2 to 15 days after exposure. Symptoms of a mild case may only last for a few days, while symptoms of a severe case may last much longer and cause permanent harm such as neurological damage.
TICKS & LYME DISEASE
You don't have to be in the deep forest to be bitten by a tick. When outdoors, take as many precautions as possible: use bug repellent with deet for clothing & skin - repellents with permethrin are for clothing only; wear light-colored clothing; wear long sleeves & long pants; wear a hat; and tuck pant legs into socks.
After you've been outdoors, promptly check your body and clothing for ticks, preferably before going indoors. Ticks can crawl on your body for up to several hours before actually biting you, commonly on your scalp, neck, behind the ears, underarms or back of your knees. The quicker a tick is removed from your body, the less likely you will develop symptoms of Lyme Disease.
If you are bitten and the tick is still attached to your skin, use sharp tweezers, near its head or mouth, to carefully remove the whole tick. Do not use heat or petroleum jelly. If you are unable to remove the whole tick, contact your doctor. It's also a good idea to save the tick in a sealed container to show your doctor in case you develop symptoms.
Once the tick is removed from your body, use soap and water to wash your hands and the area around the tick bite. For extra precaution, swab the bite area with rubbing alcohol.
Symptoms from a tick bite may not be noticeable for 3 to 30 days, but can be easily treated with antibiotics. If after you've been bitten by a tick you develop any of the following symptoms, call your doctor immediately: rash at site of bite which may look like a bull's eye; fever / chills; stiff neck; body aches; joint pain / inflammation; swollen glands or flu-like symptoms.
If you develop any of the more severe symptoms such as: severe headache; difficulty breathing; chest pain / heart palpitations; or paralysis, don't wait for a doctor appointment, call 911. Left untreated, Lyme Disease can result in permanent arthritis and in the most rare, extreme cases can cause damage to the central nervous system.
TAKE THE STING OUT OF SUMMER
Take action now to prevent becoming ill due to being stung or bitten by insects while working in an unsafe environment. Report unsafe conditions to your railroad!
If you have questions regarding this subject or believe you may have become ill due to having worked in an unsafe environment, please contact Hoey & Farina at (888) 425-1212.