1997 Third Quarter Release

Volume 3 Issue 3                                      3rd Quarter, 1997



Lexington, TN (04/97) –

I think you will find this edition of Railway Claim Services, Inc.'s newsletter enlightening, interesting . . . as well as informative.  I just finished reading what is to follow my quarterly contribution, and have to say that Dave has done an excellent job of weaving the ingredients noted above into this edition.  Have you noticed how technology is slowly altering all aspects of our lives?  When you read the rest of this newsletter you will see how Dave casually refers to the internet, web pages and evolution wrought by the computer.  He also reports on an FELA carpal tunnel lawsuit, an ill from the good. 
Two of RCSI's regional offices are now testing digital cameras, which "photograph" in computer language.  These digitally encrypted photographs can then be instantly transmitted via modem to another computer across this great country of ours, or around the world if need be.
There is software for all types of railroad applications, from bookkeeping to train dispatching.  Railroads report accidents and injuries to the FRA, often via computer, where compilation is accomplished, again via computer.  We buy automobiles (or locomotives) with computers that connect us to satellites orbiting around our ever shrinking planet, regulate fuel flow, activate air bags, and hundreds of other functions.   We routinely use cell phones, fax machines, video cameras, laser printers, video tape players, audio tape players, CD players,  and computer everything. . .  saving us time, so we can do more work in less time, and . . . we are working more, not less.  Such a time we live in.
Can you imagine how we would view today through 1987 eyes---only ten years ago.  We can all remember, with a little effort, how we functioned in business ten short years ago.  Think of the office of 25 years ago.
As technology advances in our ever competitive business lives so must we.  Thanks for allowing Railway Claim Services, Inc. to offer our niche skills in this ever increasingly complex business environment.


Part of what we do here at RCSI is to conduct on-site safety audits for our clients.  Sometimes this is at the request of the insurance carrier.
Sometimes it is at the request of the railroad.  Whatever the origin of the request might be, it is our duty and responsibility to inspect the subject railroad in every way to pinpoint any areas where we identify problems and/or the potential for problems.  These inspections are often the birthplaces for subject matter used in subsequent newsletters.  In our last newsletter I discussed the problem of trespassers.  From your response, this is a problem that is even larger than I had anticipated.  I appreciate the input I received from everyone and will do a follow-up on this subject in a future newsletter.
This time, however, I would like to address a request that many of you have made.  "How does my railroad's safety record stack up against the industry as a whole?"  This is a question for which there is no quick and easy answer.  We are working to develop formulas whereby safety performance in specific areas can be measured.  For instance, any measure for safety performance in the area of crossing accidents must take into account numerous factors, such as 1) miles of track, 2) frequency of train movement, 3) speed of trains, 4) number of crossings, 5) population density of corridor, 6) type of crossing protection, 7) participation in safety programs (i.e. Operation Lifesaver), 8) condition of crossings, 9) condition of track, 10) whether crossings are rural or urban, etc.  As you can see, any formula which takes into account each of these variables would be complicated.  Our goal is to simplify this as much as possible while maintaining its validity.
As to employee injuries, there is already a measurement established and recognized in the industry.  This is called the Frequency Severity Index (FSI).  This is a number which equates to the number of reportable injuries per 200,000 manhours worked.  The Frequency Severity Index is computed by the FRA based on information supplied by the railroads on a monthly basis.  When you make your monthly report to the FRA showing reportable injuries and hours worked, this is added to their database.  Unfortunately, individual records for shortline railroads are not maintained.  Records are kept in three categories – Class I railroads, Group 2 railroads (200+ employees) and Group 3 railroads (less than 200 employees).  Here are the FSI's for the years 1995 and 1996.

1995 1996

Class I   3.39 2.77
Group 2 7.50 6.78
Group 3 9.61 9.32

Industry avg. 4.24 3.66

For a shortline railroad to reach 200,000 manhours would take years.  Therefore, a formula is needed for our segment of the industry.  Try this.

X divided by (Y/200,000) = FSI

"X" represents the number of reportable injuries.  "Y" represents the number of manhours actually worked.  The resulting number should be annualized.  To show this, let us assume a railroad which had 1200 manhours worked in the month of June, with one reportable accident.  According to the formula, we would have an FSI for June of 13.89.

One divided by (1200/200,000) which is "one divided by 0.006" equals 166.67.  Since June is only one twelfth of the year, we would divide 166.67 by 12 to come with an FSI of 13.89.  At year's end, the actual number of manhours worked during the year can be used to give a more accurate FSI.  If you find that you actually worked 15,231 manhours during the year, and there were no other reportable injuries, you would go back to the formula and would come up with a corrected FSI of 13.13.  Hopefully this will be of some benefit to you in your safety program, at least to the extent of measuring the performance of your railroad against your brethren in the industry.


In response to several requests, case cites are now included with these summaries.

FELA - NSRR –  A carman died from a brain tumor allegedly caused by exposure to xylene, toluene, benzene, diesel fumes and pesticides over a period from 1967 to 1992.  Decedent's wife claimed that the railroad failed to provide her husband with adequate protection and failed to warn him of the dangers posed by the chemicals, despite the fact that the manufacturers of the chemicals recommended the use of respiratory equipment and protective clothing.  A Tennessee jury awarded $3.25 million.  Barbara J. Hand, Adminix. Of the Estate of Charles D. Hand, etc. v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company, Hamilton County (TN) Circuit Court, 94-CV-2354.

FELA - UPRR –  Clerk typist claims carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of the awkward placement of a new computer keyboard.  She required two surgeries on each wrist.  Railroad claimed her condition was the result of her existing diabetes.  The jury found for the plaintiff to the tune of $200,000.  Marilyn Shaw v. Union Pacific Railroad, St. Louis (MO) Circuit Court, 922-10255.

FELA – MNCR -  This 41 year old male suffered the partial amputation of his middle finger and the tip of his index finger when a rail on which he was working fell onto his hand.  He missed five months work, but then returned with no restrictions.  What is the value of one half of a middle finger and the tip of the index finger.  According to this New York jury, the value is $434,000.  Lawrence Farley v. Metro North Commuter Railroad, U.S.D.C., Southern District of New York.

FELA – MBTA – This 49 year old was removing sections of rail from a yard.  One segment of ribbon rail snapped back on him while he was removing it from the tractor, resulting is a fractured leg and ankle.  The defendant railroad failed to answer plaintiff's interrogatories and document requests.  The court entered a default judgement in the amount of $200,000. Peter LaGrow v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, Surrolk County (MA) Superior Court, SUCV95-04268.

FELA – UPRR – Plaintiff slipped and fell on ice covered ballast, injuring his shoulder and neck.  Surgery ensued and he was unable to return to work.  The railroad claimed that plaintiff should have been wearing traction devices.  Plaintiff claimed such devices were unavailable.  The jury awarded $900,000.  Richard Whitney v. Union Pacific Railroad, Scotts Bluff County (NE) District Court, 43263.  Xing Accident – BNRR – Due to infrequent usage, rust had accumulated on the track surface, causing signal malfunctions.  The railroad issued a track bulletin instruction the train crews to bring their trains to a complete stop at all crossings in this area.  Track speed was reduced to 25 mph.   Nevertheless, a train moving at 40 mph struck the plaintiff at a crossing.   She suffered multiple injuries.  The jury awarded $2,933,631.  Chong Suk Bartel, et ux v. Burlington Northern Railroad, USDC, Western District of Washington, C95-5292JKA.  Xing Accident – NWRR – Plaintiff was driving a tractor-trailer as he approached the crossing.  He slowed, but then proceeded onto the crossing into the path of the train.  As a result of the accident, plaintiff suffered brain injuries.  Although there were the standard arguments regarding the proper operation of the train and the crossing signals, the significant factor in this case was the admission into evidence of prior accidents at this crossing and prior incidents of signal malfunction.  The jury awarded $11.9 million reduced by 19% for plaintiff's negligence.  Jerome D. Lohmann, etc. v. Norfolk & Western Railway Co., Court of Appeals of Missouri, Western District, WD52089.


Have you ever wondered how the U.S. Standard railroad gauge came to be 4 feet 8.5 inches?  I have been told by what I believe to be a reliable source, that this measurement dates back to the very dawn of civilization when wheeled vehicles were first invented.  As wheeled vehicles came into common use, trails were established between villages.  After some use, ruts were cut into the ground.  When Rome became the world's first superpower, an imperial decree established that all war chariots should henceforth have wheels set apart exactly IV feet VIII.V inches.  As the Roman legions conquered the world, their chariots left roads throughout their empire with ruts of these dimensions.  After the fall of Rome, former colonies found it easier to continue to build wagons with wheels spaced to fit the ruts than to build all new roads.  When the first tramways were built, the same dimensions were kept.  As railways replaced tramways, the same dimensions were maintained.  In the United States, where no Roman Legionnaire had ever set foot, English colonists brought with them wagons and carts.  In effect, the rutted roads of England were imported to the US.  Even now, when new tracks are laid down, somewhere in Heaven a Roman emperor smiles, knowing his decree still lives. In the last newsletter I made mention of the RCSI homepage which will be coming online in the next few months.  One aspect of this page will be our ability to provide page space and/or links to railroads and railroad service providers.  If you are interested in this service, please contact me at RCSI@Netease.net.

I have an interesting spot for you to visit on the web.  If you do not yet have railroad fonts for your computer, check out the following: http://www.mcs.net/~dsdandy/cyberroad.html
These are only a few of the railroad heralds available.  There is also a monthly game in which you identify the shortline heralds.  Give it a try. RCSI welcomes your input.  If you have any questions or comments of interest to our industry, please contact Dave Gardner at (901) 967-1796 or FAX your message to (901) 967-1788.

Railway Claim Services, Inc. is the recognized leader in independent railroad claims management, which includes investigation, negotiations, and all those things in between.  If RCSI is not already a partner in your loss control and claims management program are you accepting too much risk?

Railway Claim Services, Inc. 52 South Main Street  Lexington, Tennessee
Phone901-967-1796                FAX (901) 967-1788        Email – rcsi@netease.net


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