Brakemen, Switchmen, Hostlers, Switch-engine Engineers
Railroad employees have a heightened risk of being injured due to the dangerous nature of their jobs. Brakemen, switchmen, hostlers and switch-engine engineers, for instance, are exposed to dangerous situations on a daily basis and are at grave risk of sustaining debilitating physical injuries including head and neck injuries, traumatic brain injuries, crushing injuries, shoulder and knee injuries, spinal cord injuries, and so on.
Railroad Employees Protected by FELA
All railroad employees, due to the dangers they are exposed to, are protected under what is known as the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA). FELA allows injured railroad employees to seek and collect compensation for their injuries and losses, should they be injured on the job.
Following is a breakdown of the railroad workers’ responsibilities:
Historically, railroad brakemen worked with a conductor and an engineer, making up a freight and yard crew. Railroad brakemen usually helped with the coupling and uncoupling of cars as well as operating switches as the cars are dropped off and picked up. Other duties as a passenger brakeman may include:
- Collecting revenue
- Operate door “through switches”
- Makes announcements
- Operates trainline door open and close controls
Today, there aren’t very many brakemen, however, as many railroad companies have phased them out in an effort to cut back on costs.
A switchman is the railroad worker responsible for controlling the track switches within a yard. Today, railroad switchmen may also take on brakemen duties, making up a single position, known as a switchman/brakeman.
Engineers of switch engines work in the yards, not on the road. After serving in the yards for at least one year, the switch engineer may be promoted to a road engineer. Training is done by a senior engineer who acts as the pilot and teaches the new road engineer about the grades, the crossings where the whistles need to be blown, and other duties.
A railroad hostler is the person who services the railroad engines at the end of each run.