In 1908, due to the extremely dangerous conditions surrounding railroad work, Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). FELA is the legal system which exists to ensure the safety of railroad workers and to provide them with a means of recovery should they be injured on the job; FELA also protects railroad workers whose jobs do not put them directly in contact with trains. FElA differs from workers' compensation, and provides railroad workers with extensive protection in the case they are injured on the job.
While conditions have improved considerably, railroad worker injury is not uncommon because of the inherent risks of the job. The potential causes of injury or illness on a train are numerous, and include defective equipment, unsafe working conditions, or the presence of toxic or hazardous substances. It is the right of train workers to be protected from toxins such as asbestos, diesel fumes, solvents, and silica; the absence of adequate protection is a strong basis for a FELA claim. Promptness in reporting injuries is essential to the success of a FELA claim; delays may result on train workers' injuries being blamed on incidents outside of work.