Here is a classic example of how the Federal Rail Safety Act is correcting rail management’s reflexive "blame the injured worker" mentality. The Railroad failed to provide the proper tool to do the task in question. So the worker used whatever was at hand to complete the task, just as many other workers had done with management’s blessing and without being disciplined. But this time the worker was injured. So, instead of disciplining the managers who failed to provide the proper tool, the Railroad disciplined the worker for using "an improper tool."

Under the FRSA, this is an invitation to be slapped with punitive damages, and OSHA has done just that. Even though the worker only lost one day’s pay, BNSF now must pay him $75,000 in punitive damages and $15,000 for emotional distress, plus attorney’s fees, for a total of $95,096.  The FRSA has made retaliation against injured workers an indulgence that will cost railroads dearly. For the complete text of OSHA’s BNSF Award, click here.