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1/9/2012



Rail News: Safety

Harriman and Hammond awards to be 'retired'; rail industry to develop programs that focus on 'best-practice' sharing, AAR spokeswoman says


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The E.H. Harriman and Harold F. Hammond rail safety awards will be “retired” after their next presentation in May, according to a spokeswoman for the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

In the award program’s place will be a yet-to-be-determined program that will encourage the sharing of best rail-safety practices across the industry, said Patti Reilly, AAR’s senior vice president for communications.  

The awards program is being retired in order to move away from an individual- and company-centric approach” that recognizes “winners” to one that emphasizes a team approach to safety practices, said Reilly.

The decision was made to retire the program after the next Harriman and Hammond awards event, which will be held May 16, and recognize the best in railroad safety during 2011.

“People felt that it was important that they retire Harriman and Hammond and begin to develop new programs that focus on the best rail safety practices,” Reilly said. “And, knowing that the industry is safe only when everyone is safe, those are practices that will be shared across the industry.”

What the new program might look like has yet to be determined. One possibility: creating an annual summit at which rail industry representatives meet to exchange information on best safety practices.

“The industry realized that there has been a profound change in railroading since 1913,” Reilly said, referring to when the Harriman awards were founded. “We believe it would be a really good idea to change the way safety practices are recognized so we can continue to improve in what we think is a critically important area.”

Founded by the late Mary W. Harriman in memory of her husband, railroad pioneer Edward H. Harriman, the Harriman awards recognize railroads that achieved the lowest casualty rates per 200,000 man-hours. The awards are administered by the E.H. Harriman Memorial Awards Institute with support from the Mary W. Harriman Foundation. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) documents all data.

The Harold F. Hammond Award has recognized an individual railroad employee who demonstrated outstanding safety achievement in the preceding year. Established in 1986, the award was named for the late Harold F. Hammond, a former Transportation Association of America president who served many years as chairman of the Harriman awards selection committee.

The awards have helped “propel the industry to incredible heights” in improved railroad safety, Reilly said, citing FRA figures that show that between 1980 and 2010, train accident rates fell by 77 percent, the rail employee injury rate fell by 82 percent and the grade-crossing collision rate fell 81 percent.

— Julie Sneider


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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