FELA and the FRA
In order to make a FELA claim for an injury received by a railroad worker, the railroad company has to be found negligent to some degree. If the railroad company was in violation of any of the federal acts that regulate safety and maintenance, then the company may be held liable. Even if the violation cannot be shown to have a direct cause on the particular injuring accident, the company can still be held liable for the injuries.
In 1970, the Federal Railroad Act created the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The FRA regulates all areas of railroad safety and has authority to investigate and prosecute violations of any railroad safety law. Since its inception, the FRA has created a series of regulations for maintaining safety in the railroad workplace, including operating rules and practices, engineer qualifications, bridge worker safety, radio use, read end markers, etc.
Below are some of the Acts that the FRA uses as a regulatory guide for railroad operations.
Signal Inspection Act - This act gives authority to the FRA for regulation of railroad signal systems. This regulation includes the maintenance, testing, removal or modification of signal systems.
Accident Reports Act - All common carriers are required to submit accident reports to FRA and FRA is authorized to investigate accidents.
Locomotive Inspection Act - This act which was originally intended for tourist/historic steam locomotives but serves as a valid basis for inspection of railroad engines in current use.
Safety Appliance Act - This act mandates that the railroad operators employ and maintain safety devices on all rolling stock. These devices include couplers, handholds , power brakes, grab irons, draw bars, etc. on rail cars to protect rail employees. This is especially important to activities associated with switching operations.
Hours of Service Act - This act grants FRA the authority to prevent railroad employees from working excessive hours. It also stipulates that the FRA is responsible for regulating the condition of employee sleeping quarters.