On appeal, BNSF flagger did not protect welder at rail yard

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
rail bridges
The First Street railroad bridge runs over a massive BNSF rail yard.
BNSF Railway

A court of appeals has ruled against BNSF in a case involving a welder who had to have his foot amputated after it was run over by an excavator.

Richard Blakesley, a welder for Mountain Main Welding and Fabrication Co., was working on a light-rail project that ran through a BNSF rail yard when the accident occurred. Blakesley asked the flagger if he could take off his vest while welding because it was flammable. The flagger gave him permission to take off the piece of safety gear, but moments later Blaskesley was attempting to position a large pipe to be cut when an excavator ran over his foot.

Blakesley sued, but a state district court ruled in favor of BNSF. However, the Colorado District 7 Court of Appeals reversed the decision. In the decision, the three-judge panel said, “the flagger created the risk that an equipment or train operator” would not see Blakesley because of the absence of the vest. The judges could not understand why the flagger did not take into account that “removing the high visibility safety vest would increase the risk of being run over by jobsite machinery.”

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