The dangers of work-related falls and injuries for railroad workers due to the ballast
Trips, slips, and falls hold a large share of work-related injuries in the US. According to the Department of Labor, the number of fatal falls at the workplace resulted in 835 fatalities in 2007, which is 39% more than the deaths related to falling in 1992.
Unfortunately, this tendency is increasing, and a large percentage of them occur on even surfaces, rather than from high storeys. According to the Railroad Safety Statistics ballast, ground and floor falls caused half of the sever work-related injuries in the railroad industry.
Railroad workers mainly work on ballast and are only 10% of all railroad employees. Nevertheless, they hold a share of 28% of all railroad work injuries and account for 42% of the absent days from work in the sphere.
There is a study on how the different ballast types affect the falling and tripping rate among railroad workers as well as whether the risk is higher of tripping or falling on sloped or even ballast surfaces.
The research included ten healthy men who were subjected to six different combinations of surface types (flat, small and large ballast) and slope orientation (sloped and even). They wore the same brand heavy steel toe capped shoes for the experiment.
The results of the study are that there is a relationship between walking on the different surfaces with the gait pattern changes which can lead to added fatigue.
According to the findings, walking on ballast increased the heel and toe clearance as compared to that of walking on flat surfaces. This tendency has been found to increase the risk of getting a piece of ballast caught by the toe or heel and thus causing a trip or fall.
Another similar study concluded that by making smaller steps and concentrating more on being careful when walking on ballast, the co-contraction actually improves the stability of the joints in the lower legs and feet but also led to the increase of muscle fatigues as well as the compressive force on these joints.
This is why it is recommended that the employers in the railroad business provide their railroad workers with proper safety training to increase their awareness of the walking surface and the likelihood to trip and fall when fatigued. Also, the researchers recommended that the working hours on ballast should be controlled and that regular rest breaks are given to the workers in order to prevent fatigue and thus increase the risk of injuries.