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, Achievements: 1969 - Designated as Diplomate in the American Board of
Preventive and Occupational Medicine
Aviation Medicine of the University of California Medical
Utah County Medical Society
Utah School of Medicine
Hospital, San Francisco, 1958.
School of Aviation Medicine • 1959.
for the Latter Day Saints' Church in Australia - 1949-52 Received University athletic letters in track, temis and
basketball - 1947-49 and 1952-54 Undergraduate Instructor 1952-54, Brigham Young University
in Chemistry. Have commercial FAA license and fly actively for business
Currently designated as Class 1 FAA Medical Examiner Associations American Medical Association and
California Medical Association Memberships: San Francisco County Medical Society
Industrial Medical Association
American Association of Railway Surgeons
Rehabilitation Mental Health Services
Alcoholic Information Center
center for drug rehabilitation
California Medical Association
Bond, M.B.: Low-Back X-Rays, Criteria for their Use in Placement
Coulter, E.B. : Prevention of Back Disability Through Pre-
Becker, W.F.: Prevention of Low Backs Disability, JO.:1, 3:329-35,
F.J.: Pre-Employment Medical Examinations Including
Burch, J.E.: Orthopedic Evaluation of Employee for Consideration of Employment in Heavy Industry, Indust ved & Surg, 34:127-9, Feb. 1965.
Summary Report and Proceedings: Conference on Low-Back X-Rays in Pre-Employment Physical Examinations, American College of Radiology, Tucson, Arizona, Jan. 1973.
Moreton, R.D., et al.: Radiological considerations in Pre-
Horeton, R.D., et al.: Value of Pre-Placement Examination of
Stewart, Steele F.: Pre-Employment Examinations of the Back,
Torgerson, W.F. and Dotter, W.E.: Comparative Roentgenographic
Runge, C.F.: Pre-Existing Structural Defects and Severity of
Harley, W.J.: Lost Time Back Injuries: Their Relationship to
Simril, W.A.: Consideration of Pre-Existing Conditions, Congenital
Diveley, R.L, and Oglevie, R.R.: Pre-Employment Examinations of
Colcher, A.E. and Hursh, A.M.W.: Pre-Employment Lot-Back X-Ray
STATEMENT OF JOHN MEYERS, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER,
SOUTHERN PACIFIC TRANSPORTATION CO. Dr. MEYERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am Dr. John Meyers. I am the chief medical officer for Southern Pacific Transportation Co. and my offices are located in San Francisco, Calif. I have attached to my statement a paper on my background. In summary, however, I am a graduate of the College of Medicine, University of Utah, and a specialist in preventative and occupational medicine. I have been involved in preventative medicine for the last 21 years, and have had the opportunity to work with various companies, including the U.S. Air Force, during that time. I am a graduate of the U.S. Air Force School of Aviation Medicine, and have worked for United States Steel Corp. for a period of 4 years; IBM for 5 years; and Southern Pacific Transportation Co. since 1973. I am still an active member of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, where I continue to practice preventative medicine. I have had extensive experience in heavy industry. I had my first job with the United States Steel Corp. at the age of 15. At the age of 18 I had my first job in the mines. Since that time I have worked in light and heavy industry before I came to work for the railroad. Since coming with the railroad, I find it is necessary to practice medicine in a far different manner, primarily because of the Federal Employers Liability Act, which is a Federal law governing railroad employers' obligations to its employees. Railroad workers, unlike those in virtually every other industry in the United States, are not governed by workman's compensation laws. They are governed by the Federal Employers Liability Act.
Under the Federal Employers Liability Act, a railroad employee cannot be assigned to a job if the individual creates a safety hazard to himself, fellow employees, or the public. Under FELA, an employee may file suit in either State or Federal court against the employer for injury incurred on the job.
The courts have liberally interpreted the requirement of the common carrier to provide a safe place to work. The Supreme Court of the United States has said that whenever a railroad employee under FELA is injured, and if there is any evidentiary basis upon which reasonable minds could believe that reasonable care might have required additional safety measures which were not taken, and which, in fact, contributed in whole or in part to cause the injury and/or death, the case should be submitted to the jury. The language of this decision then supports the proposition that there is an obligation on the part of the common carrier to anticipate and institute additional safety measures to make the place of work a safe one. The courts have also said the plaintiff, as such, is not required to prove that the common carrier had actual or constructive notice as to the unsafe condition, and that this is a question for jury determination; and that presumption is that the employer has notice, since he controls the place of work and/or the assignments which the employee must carry out. For example, last year in Oakland, Calif., I released an employee with a history of emotional problems to return to work. Shortly after his return to work he shot a fellow employee. The employee who was shot sued the railroad under FELA law for not providing a safe place to work. This is the second such case I have experienced in Oakland in the past 2 years.
Our attorneys advise me that the court could instruct a jury that the plaintiff employee's burden of proof is to show that the cause of injury is one which in natural continuing sequence produced an injury and without which the injury would not have occurred. In other words, the jury need find only that the railroad's supposed negligence played some part in causing the plaintiff injuries. For example, if an employee with a known back condition were allowed to work in a job which was known to be excessive to his physical abilities and he injures himself, a causal relationship can be asserted by the plaintiff against the railroad. Failure to furnish adequate help has been held to be negligence under FELA. If an employee with a known medical condition such as degenerative arthritis in his back was assisting a fellow employee in lifting, and he dropped his share of the load and in turn caused injury to a fellow employee, it could be claimed that adequate help was not provided by the railroad.
Thus, liability can be claimed following injury upon evidence that the railroad negligently permits an employee known to be psychotic or known to have potential physical disabilities to work on the property, with the result being that said employee inflicted harm or injury to a coworker.
Liability can also be advanced on the theory that the carrier negligently permits an employee to return to duty knowing that the employee has a physical condition which renders him incapable of performing the work.
Under FELA, it is apparent that all applicants for employment in the railroad industry must be carefully screened to insure that they are at no greater risk than the average population for developing illness or injury in the course of their railroad employment.
As you can see, the rail industry has been singled out by Federal law because FELA supersedes the normal employer-employee relationship under workman's compensation statutes applicable to other industries.
Our attorneys advise me that FELA imposes an obligation on railroad employers to provide its employees a reasonably safe place to work. The act specifically provides, and various court interpretations have held, that contributory negligence and assumption of risk by the employee will not be a bar to recovery.
A court has found that “no employee shall be held to have assumed the risk of his employment in any case where the violation by any such common carrier of any statutes enacted for the safety of employees contributed to the injury or death of such employee.”
As an example, last year I was personally sued as an officer of the company for malpractice because an employee with a back condition that I had released to return to duties on advice of his attending physician aggravated his back problem in the normal performance of his job.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Practice [OFCCP] has made the practice of railroad medicine even more difficult. The health and safety of individuals who may be injured as a result of action forced by the OFCCP was not anticipated by the FELA. The two are inconsistent and contradictory. The OFCCP has taken the position that anyone who is refused employment for any medical finding has a handicap under section 503 of the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and they demand you should hire the applicant regardless of what the normal course of disease progression will be. Despite the stand taken by the OFCCP, in my view, it is unreasonable and contrary to commonsense to place an individual in a position where his physical or mental health can be made worse or injury can result to other people.
Southern Pacific Transportation Co. strongly believes that only a competent physician who is well acquainted with railroad job responsibilities and the individual's medical capabilities should determine if an existing physical condition will prove detrimental to a person's well-being or to the safety of other employees in a particular job assignment.
Southern Pacific Transportation Co. screens individuals according to job requirements and has placed over 1,000 handicapped people in various job categories. We work closely with State and private rehabilitation groups and support an active in-house rehabilitation program. Southern Pacific Co. alters the workplace and job assignments for risk individuals, where possible. Because of the nature of the industry, however, it is impossible to modify many job responsibilities and still perform the job which is required to run the railroad. Many of the jobs are mechanized-for example, overhead cranes, cherrypickers, tie tampers—but there still remains a need for many individuals to perform arduous activities. Many employees are required to climb on and off moving trains, work on ladders, operate air hammers, and plain old-fashioned pick and shovel activities.
At a Western Occupational Medical Association meeting in Monterey, Calif., this last weekend, it was repeatedly charged that OSHA to date has cost the American people over $25 billion, with no discernible change in the accident rate of American industry.
In my view, the primary goal of OSHA should be to achieve a cooperative effort with the health professionals in industry in protecting the health and safety of its employees. If OSHA is to assist in reducing industrial accidents and disease, they should direct more efforts to appropriate job placement.
I feel OSHA's current actions are comparable to requiring the utilization of shoulder pads and helmets for a football team, instead of emphasizing that the individuals who play the game should be physically fit and given assignments so that they could safely and effectively perform before they are allowed to don the pads and helmets.