Occupational Health Professionals Help Railroads Protect Worker Health and Safety

AIHA announces free educational resources for the rail industry

AIHA, the association for scientists and professionals committed to preserving and ensuring occupational and environmental health and safety (OEHS) in the workplace and community, announced the availability of free resources to support rail operators in reducing health risks associated with work conducted on railroads. OEHS professionals, traditionally known as industrial hygienists, work alongside railroad safety experts to reduce health risks to workers. Improved worker health and safety can reduce absenteeism, decrease turnover rates, thus resulting in a more efficient and productive workforce.

Rail operators can find free resources or information on how to hire an OEHS professional at a new website: www.workerhealthsafety.org/transportation/railway. The website includes fact sheets, articles and journal studies that address ways in which OEHS professionals help mitigate occupational health risks, such as heart and lung problems, cancer, emotional stress and mental illness.

“The rail industry plays a crucial role in our economy. OEHS professionals work to protect the company’s most valuable resource – employees – by evaluating and assessing risk and keeping workers safe, which ultimately impacts the industry’s bottom line,” says AIHA Board President Donna S. Heidel, CIH, FAIHA.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has specific regulations to ensure safety measures are met. However, freight rail workers may run into accidents that could lead to long term health issues. Potential hazards may include exposure to diesel exhaust, coal dust particles, noise from trains, fires, and train derailments. OEHS professionals are trained to evaluate exposures including noise and air contaminants such as inhalable carcinogens, welding fumes or solvent vapor and determine if health risks exist at levels present.

“At CSX, the health and safety of our employees is the company’s highest priority. Should an employee experience exposure to a hazard in the workplace, we are available, along with a third-party toxicologist, to assess the exposure and offer fact-based information to emergency response personnel. In most cases, our work helps avoid unnecessary medical testing and procedures. It is essential to let our employees know that the company is working on their behalf to ensure their well-being,” according to CSX Manager of Industrial Hygiene and AIHA member, LaTonya Edwards, CIH, CSP.

About AIHA

AIHA is the association for scientists and professionals committed to preserving and ensuring occupational and environmental health and safety in the workplace and community. Founded in 1939, we support our members with our expertise, networks, comprehensive education programs, and other products and services that help them maintain the highest professional and competency standards. More than half of AIHA’s nearly 8,500 members are Certified Industrial Hygienists, and many hold other professional designations. AIHA serves as a resource for those employed across the public and private sectors, as well as to the communities in which they work.

In 2020, AIHA developed the “Back to Work Safely” initiative to help small businesses get back to work safely with industry sector specific guidelines and resources. AIHA’s Back to Work Safely Guidelines, 2nd Edition, are now available for small to mid-size businesses in 27 sectors. The free guidance documents, available only in English and Spanish), provide clear and actionable steps towards the safe operations of a variety of workplaces through prevention, early detection, and control of COVID-19. The 2nd editions offer practical guidance for employers to implement multiple layers of risk mitigation strategies in order of most effective to least effective – through the elimination of a hazard, substitution of a hazard, use of engineering controls (e.g., increased ventilation and air filtration), administrative controls (e.g., staggered shifts), and persoal protective equipment (e.g., respirators and gloves). For more information, please visit www.aiha.org.

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