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Most of the attorneys practicing railroad personal injury or wrongful death law have heard of the Geneva Convention, which resulted from efforts of the ILO. However, many railroad attorneys and even consumers in the United States do not realize that the International Labour office (ILO) continues to set industrial safety standards including standards in railroad industrial settings, and is one of the oldest international organizations setting such industry standards, existing since 1919. ( ). Since 1919, the International Labour Organization states that it “has maintained and developed a system of international labour standards aimed at promoting opportunities for women and men to obtain decent and productive work, in conditions of freedom, equity, security and dignity.” The ILO representatives meet and develop standards called “Conventions” and the most notable is the “Geneva Convention” relating to torture, of course. When a Convention of the ILO is ratified in the USA, it has the force and effect of a treaty, which is actually equal to or superior to federal law, but trumps state law. The ILO also develops “Model Codes” and this article pertains mainly to such Codes.

Even if an ILO convention is not ratified in the USA, the conventions and the standards are influential industry standards affecting an industry, and there are a number of standards applying to railroads. (E.g., C-153 covers hours of service, including railroads, and has been ratified by 9 nations, not including the USA). Many other “conventions” touch on railroad practices, though not ratified in the USA. The ILO website allows a search for “conventions” to see a list of all ILO conventions. This link goes to the master convention index: .

Of pertinence to the rail industry and of relevance to cases involving personal injuries to railroad workers or other persons working near railroads, is an ILO publication called the “Model Code of Safety Regulations for Industrial Establishments, for the Guidance of Governments and Industry”, published since at least 1954, with 1956 amendments, based on meetings that began in Geneva in 1948. There are numerous standards in effect covering many aspects of railroad operations, including at industrial tracks, as well as standards pertaining to locomotives, cranes, industrial settings, etc. Railways/railroads are just one portion of the 600 plus page Model Code.

For example Regulation 156 involves locomotive cranes and has various standards.

There is a provision 157 relating to railway cranes.

Regulation 176 provides definitions relating to plant railways, including boxcars, locomotives, gondola cars, hopper cars and so forth. There are regulations covering switch stands, clearances, railroad crossings, the manner in which tracks pass near industrial loading areas and so forth.

Regulation 178 applies to locomotives, 179 covers railway cars, and there are detailed regulations under regulation 180 relating to the operation and maintenance of plant railways covering railroad tracks, the movement of cars, loading and unloading, and similar.

A practitioner handling Federal Employers Liability Act cases, or cases involving negligence liability involving railway tracks or industrial situations involving movement of train cars, should review the ILO standards, or have their railroad operations expert review these standards, as they are another category of “industry standards” that can apply in a case involving a railroad accident, derailment or injury.

A search of ILO publications, including the Model Code mentioned above can be initiated online at:

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