The Federal Railroad Administration said Tuesday it will launch an investigation into why the Unites States' second-largest railroad reported no cases of carpal tunnel syndrome among workers last year, only to disclose later that 125 employees had claimed that their jobs gave them the neuromuscular condition.
Federal regulations require railroads to report workplace injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome, or face fines of up to $5,000 per day per case for deliberately underreporting injuries.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., which employs 40,000 people, has not reported a case of carpal tunnel syndrome in five years.
"We're going to look at the BNSF first, and we'll probably take a look at the others. If we find that everything is fine -- I'm skeptical -- then there wouldn't be any need" to examine other railroads' injury reports, said George Gavalla, the Federal Railroad Administration's associate administrator for safety. "But if we find some significant under-reporting, then we would look at all of them."
Burlington Northern Santa Fe spokesman Richard Russack said the railroad did not report any of the 125 claimed carpal tunnel cases last year because the company determined none of them was work-related.
But an attorney for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees said in 11 cases the union has looked into, a doctor diagnosed carpal tunnel and deemed it work-related. And in one case, the railroad approved and paid for surgery to relieve the condition, said Harry W. Zanville, the attorney.
Gavalla said railroads are required to report any carpal tunnel syndrome case that a qualified medical professional diagnoses and finds to be work-related.
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