The Federal Railroad Administration published a study. It looked at the safety culture of Norfolk Southern. Norfolk Southern is a Class I railroad in the eastern United States. The study found that communication could be better. The study found that training could be better. The study found that trust between the company and its workers could be better.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reached a settlement with NS and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way-Employers Division (BMWED) over safety violations at the site of a train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. The FRA’s report follows this statement. Officials opened the valves on a tank car holding vinyl chloride due to safety concerns.
On Friday, NS said it would give East Palestine a gift of $500,000 to help the economy grow. This would be on top of other large amounts of money for helping the neighborhood.
FRA Cites Four Areas Where NS Could Improve Its Safety Culture
Even though NS has taken some steps to make trains safer, the Federal Railroad Administration has found four places where it could do more.
According to the report, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) stated that NS has an evolving level of safety culture maturity, with some individual safety culture elements being more advanced or less advanced. The middle level of safety culture maturity indicates that NS’ leadership has demonstrated positive changes and a renewed commitment to improving safety. However, there are still areas where NS operates reactively and prioritizes compliance with minimum safety requirements set by federal regulations and industry standards.
FRA says that one of them is making sure that dialogue is open and works well. One way that NS could improve how it talks to its workers is by trying to cut down on the time it takes for traffic monitors to send out alerts and messages.
NS also needs to work on building trust with its employees.
One way to do this is to reply quickly and freely to safety concerns from employees and ask for their ideas on how to do this.
Third, make sure that your group has the means and training to back up its commitment to safety. A big part of this is making sure that field bosses have the tools they need to be good leaders and feel “empowered to do their jobs.”
And the fourth is to create a safety mindset that is less reactive and more proactive, with less of a focus on just meeting the basic safety standards. Plans to deal with tiredness and plans to make crashes less likely are two examples of these kinds of steps.
In a statement, NS said that it agreed with what the FRA found. FRA Administrator Amit Bose met with NS President and CEO Alan Shaw and other company management on Tuesday to talk about the results, the company said.
We are a safe railroad that is committed to enhancing our safety measures even further. We must listen in order to learn. Shaw stated in a Wednesday release that it is important to understand the FRA’s perspective on areas for improvement and expressed appreciation for their recognition of positive progress being made. We are seeking feedback from various sources, including our regulators, the unions representing our craft colleagues, and external consultants such as Atkins Nuclear Secured, who possess extensive safety experience.
Shaw also said that the report had been given to Atkins Nuclear Secured and that the train will keep working on NS’s six-point safety plan. In May, NS said that an outside company, Atkins, would look into the safety culture of the business.
According to the report, FRA has stated its commitment to assisting NS in achieving its safety goals for the betterment of its operations, employees, and the communities it serves. The agency also mentioned its intention to follow up on the recommendations provided.
From March 15 to May 15, the government looked at how safe NS was.
Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, stated that they welcome the report from the FRA, which examines the root causes of safety culture failures at Norfolk Southern. This report echoes the concerns raised by rail workers and unions in the industry over the years. We are eager to collaborate with our federal partners in Congress and the Biden Administration to tackle these issues and establish robust rail safety reforms.
OSHA, NS, and BMWED Reach A Settlement Over Alleged Safety Violations
On the same day, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it had reached a settlement with NS and BMWED over a train disaster that involved a 49-car pileup and 11 tank cars holding dangerous chemicals. When the explosives caught fire, the rubble burned for days.
The following was accepted by NS:
- “Set up a medical tracking system for all the workers who were at the accident site and were exposed.
- So that there aren’t any more derailments, the union has asked for 40 hours of training in handling toxic waste and responding to emergencies.
- The accident in Ohio should be the basis for a teaching program.
- Pay back the fines OSHA gave you for four health and safety violations.
OSHA Area Office Director Howard Eberts stated in a release that the agreement will enhance safety and health controls for Norfolk Southern employees who respond to emergencies.
It will also educate the rail operator’s employees on the lessons learned to ensure preparedness for future emergencies. Norfolk Southern Corp., the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, and contractors from the clean-up site have been working together on this site remediation, and we are pleased with their collaborative safety and health efforts.
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