CN’s Brown becomes a DEKRA Insight Safety Icon for 2022

CN AVP of Safety Tom Brown (in center) received a DEKRA Insight Safety Icon Award from two DEKRA North America officials. DEKRA North America

By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor 

DEKRA North America recently presented a DEKRA Insight Safety Icon Award to CN Assistant Vice President of Safety Tom Brown. He received the honor in recognition of his exceptional contributions to on-the-job safety at the railroad. 

A global company focused on workplace safety, DEKRA Insight presents the award annually to individuals who use their time and expertise to successfully guide safety at their company and inspire others to go above and beyond in efforts to help protect co-workers.  

The Safety Icons are a diverse group of individuals who each made an inspirational, influential or innovative contribution to safety, DEKRA Insight officials said in an online post. Past winners include executives and employees from BNSF Railway Co., Koppers Inc., the U.S. Department of Transportation, BASF Corp. and Shell Oil. 

Ensuring a healthy and safe workplace means safety must become the focal point of day-to-day operations, Brown wrote in a blog titled “Embedding Safety into Daily Practices” that’s posted on CN’s website. The railroad’s safety programs are designed to minimize risk, drive continuous improvement in reducing accidents and injuries, and engage employees at all levels of the organization, he said. 

Tom Brown Accidents and injuries can be prevented when everyone in an organization relies more on their “slow brain” than their “fast brain,” Tom Brown says. CN

There are 82 joint union-management health and safety committees at CN charged with addressing the main causes of accidents and injuries and improving the company’s safety culture. The committees review safety issues or incidents at a local level to better understand trends and connect with workers in the field to solicit ideas. 

CN also employs a safety management system (SMS) that serves as a formal framework for integrating safety into day-to-day operations. It applies to all employees and governs contractors and others when they are present on CN property. 

“Through our SMS, we continue to focus on the top causes of accidents and how to prevent them through risk assessments and safety audit improvement plans. We conduct risk assessments in a structured and systematic way prior to changes in operations and address activities that may pose a significant risk,” Brown wrote. 

The assessments enable employees to better understand the potential safety hazards of their job and help ensure mitigations are undertaken to minimize accident and injury risks. 

During safety coaching and briefing sessions, managers and employees discuss how to better engage the “slow brain” than rely on the “fast brain,” Brown said. The slow brain is the part used to pause and think through important tasks; the fast brain is the part used to perform routine tasks repeatedly each day, so they become automatic and effortless. 

“When we operate in fast-brain mode, we often don’t notice small changes in our environment until it’s too late. That’s when many preventable injuries occur,” says Brown. “When we pause and take a deep breath, we shift into slow-brain mode, and then we can better evaluate the situation and stay safe.”