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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA completes safety assessment of Norfolk Southern

On Feb. 3, an NS train carrying hazmat derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. The incident resulted in 38 rail cars derailing, including 11 of the hazardous materials tank cars. The derailment caused a massive fire and environmental damage to the East Palestine community
Photo – National Transportation Safety Board


The Federal Railroad Administration yesterday released a report of its 60-day supplemental safety assessment of Norfolk Southern Railway following the Feb. 3 derailment of an NS hazmat train in East Palestine, Ohio.

Conducted between March 15 and May 15, the assessment reviewed the railroad’s operational elements and evaluated its safety culture, with a focus on ensuring NS is engaging its employees and management on safety issues in order to protect those employees and the communities in which the railroad operates, according to the report.

Ten essential elements of NS’ safety culture were evaluated. In issuing its findings, the FRA judged the railroad’s performance according to levels of “maturity.”

Based on its assessment, the FRA found the overall safety culture maturity to be in the "involving level,” although certain individual elements may be "leading or lagging in maturity," the report states.

"This middle level of safety culture maturity reflects both the positive changes and renewed commitment shown by NS’ leadership to improve safety as well as the areas where NS continues to operate in a manner that is reactive and focused on compliance with minimum safety requirements of federal regulations and industry standards," FRA officials wrote.

The agency identified four cross-cutting safety culture findings that have the greatest potential for improvement. Those four are:

• NS communications are not always open and effective and require improvement;

• NS employees and the organization do not always work to foster mutual trust;

• NS training and resources are not always effective at supporting safety efforts; and

• NS frequently focused solely on enforcing compliance with minimum safety standards.

Under each finding, the FRA made several recommendations for improving safety outcomes.

FRA officials also found noncompliance with safety regulations and is "considering enforcement actions" against NS. However, the "purpose of the assessment is to explore aspects of the railroad organization and operations affecting safety in ways that are not necessarily addressed by rules and regulations," the report states.

The FRA conducted the assessment in three parts: an evaluation of NS responses to prior FRA safety recommendations; focused inspections and investigations designed to evaluate safety-critical elements of NS operations; and a safety culture review including surveys of employees and front-line supervisors, as well as interviews of NS leaders and local labor leaders who also were NS employees.

Click here to read the entire FRA report.




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