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Platform Safety: Injuries Cost You

Doing everything possible to ensure platform safety not only reduces the number of accidents that occur at train boarding sites, it also protects municipalities and public agencies from expensive lawsuits.  Long Island Rail Road officials found this out in 2010, when a New York City jury ordered their agency to pay $247,000 to an elderly woman.  She had previously slipped and fallen after stepping into the gap between the platform and the train. 


The jurors ruled that the injured party, 72 year old Judith Cohen, was partly responsible for the incident.  However, they also claimed that the railroad should have done more to warn passengers about the dangers associated with the platform.


Incidents like this one show that public safety officials must be proactive in their efforts to prevent train platform accidents.  Reports of another recent lawsuit, this time in Chicago, reveals the extent to which transit authorities can be held liable for the actions (or misactions) of passengers.  According to the August 1st, 2013 issue of the Chicago Tribune:


A lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges that the CTA and one of its employees are liable for the death of a Frankfort man with an open bottle of alcohol who fell last year from a Blue Line platform.  Jeffery Knoll II died Aug. 7, when he fell onto the tracks at the Forest Park station and came into contact with the electrified third rail.  According to the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Knoll's estate and mother in Cook County Circuit Court, a CTA employee asked Knoll and his companion to dispose of the alcohol but did not ask them to leave the station.


The lawsuit claims that the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) employee should have physically removed Knoll from the premises, rather than waiting for police to arrive and do so themselves.  News of the claim has spread across the Internet and is being touted as a prime example of a frivolous lawsuit.


While this case is far from being settled, it illustrates the degree to which zealous attorneys will go to seek funds from public agencies.  The best way to guard against these kinds of legal actions is to take every reasonable step possible to ensure public safety – and then take additional steps, just in case.


Standard Platform Safety Measures

At the bare minimum, a train platform should have the following safety features:

  • Slight upward slope leading to the platform edge, so that wheelchairs, luggage carriers, and other wheeled objects can’t roll off the platform and into the path of oncoming trains.
  • Straight or convex edges, so that commuters can see trains coming from as far a distance as possible.  If this is not possible, closed-circuit cameras and video screens can focus on blind spots that could hide a speeding train from waiting passengers.
  • Areas underneath the ledges where those who do fall can crouch and be safe from arriving trains.
  • Indelible markings on the platform surface, marking the minimum safe distance away from the train gap at which commuters should stand.  To ensure added safety, the markings should be placed on top of tiled surfaces, so that visually impaired people can detect them with walking aids.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 mandates a warning strip at least 24 inches wide.  The strip should run the length of the platform and include raised bumps for an enhanced profile.
  • Between Car Barriers that ensure the visually disabled do not mistake the opening between rail cars as doorways and accidentally step out onto the track.
  • Workers who are thoroughly trained in providing service to all type of passengers, including those who may be mentally impaired, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or dealing with physical handicaps that may not be readily obvious.
  • Hazard markers placed at regular points along the platform, to reinforce the need for caution among those waiting there.  These should be designed so that they’re highly conspicuous.


While no number of platform safety precautions can completely eliminate the possibility of platform accidents, the above measures can minimize their likelihood, keeping members of the public safe while helping to insure transport agencies from lawsuits and negative publicity.  Stop by our website, and let us supply you with the signage you need.