Wisconsin & Southern: Safety depends on more than just injury-free streaks

Through an intense organization-wide commitment and tight collaboration, the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad has developed a safety culture and mindset that didn’t exist when Watco purchased the regional in 2012, says WSOR General Manager Preston Nelson. Credit: Watco

The Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (WSOR) recently ended a safety streak that reached a highly unusual level for a regional: nearly 1.2 million manhours without a reportable injury. The streak started more than three years ago and was broken in March, when a locomotive mechanic developed shoulder pain after performing a minor task in a restroom. The incident led to a doctor’s visit, then some follow-up visits that shockingly — and sadly — revealed the worker had contracted pancreatic cancer. The major injury-prevention effort certainly was a milestone for WSOR, a nearly 600-mile regional owned by Watco that operates mostly in central and southern Wisconsin, reaches Chicago and employs 158 people. But the achievement was more of an acknowledgment of the safety improvements instituted at the railroad over the past decade, WSOR leaders believe.



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