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July 2021

Rail News: People

Rising Stars 2021: Brian Lapp

Brian Lapp


Brian Lapp, 38
Senior vice president, chief safety officer
New Jersey Transit

Nominator's quote: "Overall employee injury rates have declined by 11% since Brian joined the organization. He implemented the Office of System Safety's first risk based data and trend analysis software program in order to more effectively allocate department resources to mitigate hazards proactively. Brian also created an independent rail incident investigation team with a focus on deep dives into near miss incidents that are often indicators of a potential future incident." — Jeannie Kwon, New Jersey Transit

Education: State University of New York Farmingdale, bachelor’s degree in computer science/criminal justice.

Job responsibilities: Leads the NJ Transit Office of System Safety, overseeing the health and safety of rail, bus and light-rail operations.

Career path: Spent time in environmental health and safety, construction safety, aviation safety and rail safety. Each area requires a bit of a different skill set and approach to foster a strong proactive safety culture.

How did you get into the railroad industry? My first taste of the rail industry was working with the AirTrain systems at Newark and JFK airports. Both are automated, driverless systems with many unique aspects that have very few similarities to any other systems, and at the same time are designed and operated very similar to many rapid transit and commuter-rail systems when you talk about signaling systems, equipment design, infrastructure, maintenance, etc.

What is the best career advice you've received? Listen twice as much as you speak. Use your speaking time wisely to ask questions and gain knowledge from your colleagues and industry experts.

What advice would you give to a new railroader? Don’t focus only on one area of the operation. Take the time to learn about each of the many different disciplines and crafts that make the railroad function and how they complement each other. Always be analyzing and remember, slow is smooth and smooth is fast.

What was your very first job? My first job was at Bert’s Chicken and Ribs, a fried chicken/deli when I was 12.

Describe a fun fact about yourself: I am an ordained minister. I recently was fortunate enough to officiate the wedding of my brother-in-law and his wife.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? With any spare time I have, I try to focus on what I can learn today in order to make tomorrow better. Working hard today makes tomorrow a bit easier.

What is the rail industry's biggest challenge? The biggest challenge I see for the rail industry, especially passenger rail, is rebuilding the trust in our customers to come back to our system in a post-pandemic world. As remote work and remote schooling start to taper off, we need to provide our customers a clean, safe and reliable mode of transportation to get them back to their normal lives.


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