A collaborative effort to prevent workplace injuries by challenging and changing traditional employee-management relationships has been launched by The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Co. (BNSF) and the United Transportation Union (UTU).
New employee safety rules and policies will be developed and implemented through collective bargaining on a region-by-region basis across the railroad.
These rules and policies also are intended to improve working conditions, enhance the quality of rail service and permit a mutually acceptable procedure for introduction of new technologies.
"The customary roles of a manager and employee in the railroad industrial setting were defined more than a century ago and remain basically adversarial in nature and require modernization," said UTU International Vice President Rick Marceau. "We have agreed to recognize first that safety, productivity and quality of life on the job are inexorably intertwined and that staffing, training, work/rest scheduling, attendance requirements, rules and operating practices all have a bearing on safety in general and human-factor failures specifically."
"This framework will, for the first time, truly allow all of us to concentrate on injury and accident prevention," said M. David Dealy, BNSF''s vice president for transportation. "This is a win-win for both parties. More focus on the upstream drivers and root causes will generate immediate and continuous improvement. The UTU''s visionary leadership and commitment will add a tremendous amount of leverage to our current safety efforts."
BNSF and the UTU said they will empower regional safety representatives to assure that new procedures are being implemented and interpreted uniformly and as intended by negotiators.
Local safety forums will monitor work practices and seek to correct safety hazards promptly rather than through the archaic reporting, cataloguing and investigative process, said UTU.
Workplace coaching, counseling and retraining are intended to replace the existing discipline process for non-repetitive and non-serious safety-rules violations.
"It is intended that imposing discipline on injured employees be severely restricted," said Marceau.
by Virginia Foran