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What is the Safety Appliance Act?

The Safety Appliance Act requires that railroad trains contain:

  • Cars equipped with air brakes so that the engineer can control the speed of the train without relying on the brakeman to use the hand brake.
  • Couplers at the ends of cars that can be coupled and uncoupled automatically-without having a person positioned between the ends of cars to uncouple them
  • Secure handholds on the ends of cars to assist people positioned between them in coupling and uncoupling cars manually
  • Secure running boards, sill steps, ladders, grab irons, and handholds

When the railroad violates the Safety Appliance Act and that leads to an employee’s injury, the railroad is held absolutely liable. In other words, the employee’s contributory negligence is not a defense in the FELA case.