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Rail Worker Health Could be a Factor in Train Crashes and Injuries in Miami and Other Cities

Much has been written about the effect of driver health on car and truck accidents in Miami and other cities. Studies have pointed out that drivers with certain health conditions have a higher risk of collisions and may be dangerous on the roads. Now, safety experts are noting that worker health may be impacting the rate of train accidents and public transportation crashes in Miami and other communities.

When train accidents in Miami and other communities across the country happen, a number of agencies, including police, the Federal Railroad Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, and other organizations launch lengthy investigations into the causes of the collisions. In a number of recent train accidents, worker health has been cited as a major cause of collisions. For example, a 2013 commuter train derailment in New York was linked to an engineer’s sleep apnea. The engineer had the condition but was untreated at the time he fell asleep at the controls. A recent Union Pacific train crash occurred because an engineer had colorblindness that had gone undiagnosed. The engineer was not able to notice yellow and red warning signs in order to prevent a crash.

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Many workers must submit to careful physical screening as part of their jobs. For example, truck drivers, commercial pilots, maritime crew, and bus drivers all need to undergo physical exams and may be disqualified from their jobs if they have certain heart diseases, vision problems, sleep disorders, diabetes, chronic allergies, and other health issues. However, not all workers are subject to these rules. Railroad employees, for example, have to pass vision and hearing tests but do not have to pass a health assessment that rules out many additional conditions. Some tour and boat operators are also not subject to health controls.

There is no doubt that health issues in a number of fields can be dangerous. Factory workers, for example, can easily sustain work injuries in Miami or their communities if they are ill on the job. Construction accidents can occur if workers have heart conditions, chronic allergies, or other problems. Most patients realize that if their doctor is distracted by an illness they may not get the quality medical care they can expect. Unfortunately, right now many employees do not have to pass a medical exam for work. Even with medical exams, of course, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed issues could still pose a risk. Getting more medical testing for at-risk workers, however, seems like a logical step in preventing catastrophic injury.


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