FRA Study Confirms Dangers of Walking on Ballast

The findings of a study released earlier this month by the Federal Railroad Administration will come as no surprise to most railroad employees — walking on mainline ballast can cause muscle fatigue and increased stress on your joints.

The study, a collaboration between university and industry researchers funded by the FRA, examined 20 healthy adult men walking on three different surfaces — mainline ballast, walking ballast, and a level firm surface with no ballast. The researchers collected data, including electromyographic (EMG) signals from the subjects’ lower extremety muscles, to determine the effects on the body of walking on these surfaces. The researchers concluded that even though the subjects walked slower and more cautiously on mainline ballast, the surface put greater stress on the joints and muscles. The study suggested that “increased efforts to place [walking ballast] where walking occurs and to maintain those surfaces will increase safety and decrease demands on the musculoskeletal systems of railroad employees.”

If you develop musculoskeletal problems, and you were required as a part of your job with the railroad to walk on poorly maintained ballast, you may be able to file a claim under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. As with many safety concerns in the railroad industry, the most effective way to get the railroad to invest in eliminating the danger is the threat of liability under the FELA.

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