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Rail News: Safety

AAR honors nine railroads for employing innovative safety practices


The Association of American Railroads (AAR) today is recognizing highlights in best safety practices from around the rail industry at its annual Railroad Safety Leadership Forum in Atlanta.

The event brings together railroad teams from AAR’s full-member railroads to underscore achievements in personal safety and injury prevention, and provide a venue to share best practices.

"Safety is at the core of the railroad industry, driving every day decisions and operations from offices in headquarters to the cab of locomotives moving across America's 140,000 mile rail network," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger in a press release. "Through innovation and hard work, our employees continue to make the railroad industry one of the safest in which to have a career. We will continue to innovate and invest, and bring together teams from around the industry to listen and learn and take every opportunity to improve safety."

The 2014 Safety Forum Groups are:

BNSF Railway Co.'s Safety Employees of the Year for 2013. The winners are George Eaton, a brakeman in Haslet, Texas; Phillip Gabel, a locomotive engineer in Trinidad, Colo.; Jason Harris, an electrician in Memphis, Tenn.; Steve Jewell, a signal maintainer in Williams, Ariz.; Michael Lunak, a locomotive engineer in Grand Forks, N.D.; Joe Sypal, a carman in Lincoln, Neb.; and Matthew Thomas, an intermodal clerk in Corwith, Ill. The workers were instrumental in fostering peer-to-peer programs that proactively identify risk to exposures and reinforce safe behaviors with positive feedback, AAR officials said. The winners "have gone above and beyond to help advance [our] safety vision of an accident- and injury-free workplace, working to instill a culture of commitment to safety and to emphasize the importance of behavior-based safety among their co-workers and peers," said BNSF President and CEO Carl Ice in a press release.

CN's Harrison Hump Yard Safety Team in Memphis. The yard's last reportable injury occurred more than a year ago. Strong leadership, a focus on employee engagement, teamwork and a commitment to safety are the primary reasons for the achievement, AAR officials said. The joint management/union local safety committee assumed a key role within the terminal by effectively engaging and leading safety outreach through peer conversations focusing on top causes of injuries and accidents, they added.

Canadian Pacific's Chase Work Equipment Shop and Milwaukee Operations. The shop and operations team passed more than 5,000 days (or more than 14 years) without a FRA-reportable injury, and is still going strong, AAR officials said. Two key factors to their success are daily safety briefings and a collaborative approach to safety.

CSX Transportation's Rule Simplification Team. The rule simplification project was designed to address employee needs to more easily understand operational rules. A joint labor/management team reviewed every rule with a mandate to reorganize and rewrite rules using a structure that would make the rules shorter and easier to teach and understand. Previous rule books lacked consistent formatting, uniformity of wording and terms, and structure that allowed task related rules to be scattered across many sections and books. Now, rules have been streamlined in a hierarchical “cookbook” fashion using an organizational structure that groups all relevant rules by task, AAR officials said.

Iowa Pacific Holdings' Santa Cruz and Monterrey Bay Railway in California. Despite the challenges of being a startup organization handling both passenger and freight operations, the railroad has managed to be injury and accident-free for 525 days and counting, AAR officials said. While getting underway, the railroad field tested the company’s new conductor certification training program and other part 230-compliant training programs.

Kansas City Southern's Transportation Engineering and Mechanical (TEaM) Training Center "Static Display" in Shreveport, La. Last year, KCS committed to an expansion of its training program for all craft employees in a new facility to be housed in a former customer service center in Shreveport. Beginning with conductor training, new computer classrooms were set up as well as static displays of equipment to allow trainees to practice their skills before moving to a live yard. Students build confidence as they learn proper techniques for mounting and dismounting equipment, radio, and hand signals, AAR officials said.

Metra's Safety and Interactive Management (SIM) Team in Elgin, Ill. The SIM team has been credited with many accomplishments over the years, helping to make Metra a safer system for employees and passengers, AAR officials said. The team has adopted a proactive approach in promoting safety by eliminating or reducing exposure thereby reducing the risk of injury or incident. The secret of the team’s success: their professionalism and ability to build good working relationships with employees of other crafts and departments who are needed to correct or repair potential safety hazards, AAR officials said. For example, the team identified the need for a safer walking surface other than ballast in Elgin Yard, particularly during the winter months.

Norfolk Southern Railway's Detroit Terminal Safety and Service Committee. The committee has focused on recognizing safe behaviors and coaching employees for peak safety performance. The team aims to develop a safety culture and implement peer-to-peer interaction, and has put safety in action by establishing best practices, AAR officials said. For example, the committee identified a potential exposure when rail wheels were damaged by handbrakes left applied.

Union Pacific Railroad's Houston Service Unit Derailment Prevention Team in Texas. The team demonstrated their commitment to safety through the implementation of "UP Way" problem-solving tools. They used data from an eight-step problem-solving process to identify the top three causes of human factor derailments: shoving, behaviors around a switch and employees with less than five years of service. The findings resulted in the successful implementation of several new safety tools at the Houston Service Unit: a new job briefing book written from the employee’s perspective, visual management job aids, and a two-day derailment prevention class for employees with less than five years of service, AAR officials said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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