New Safety Culture Hits the Rails

Safety has hit the rails, but in the best way possible: the United Transportation Union (UTU) and The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) are launching a new era in railroad employee safety programs.

Safety has hit the rails, but in the best way possible: The United Transportation Union (UTU) and The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) are launching a new era in railroad employee safety programs.

UTU and BNSF signed an agreement that creates a new safety culture that focuses on the active participation of employees and UTU and BNSF leadership working as a team to create a safer workplace. The agreement also establishes an approach to discipline that further stresses training and counseling instead of punitive discipline.

"This agreement challenges and changes traditional employee/management relationships by substituting training and counseling for punitive discipline in most cases of rules violations," says UTU International President Byron A. Boyd Jr.

The agreement provides for UTU safety representatives to monitor the program, ensuring that the agreement's procedures are being implemented and interpreted uniformly across BNSF's system. Safety forums at different BNSF locations will address conditions that have to be corrected to improve safe production, replacing the previous reporting, cataloging and investigative process. Workplace coaching, counseling and retraining will replace the existing discipline process for non-repetitive and non-serious rules violations.

"This agreement, the first of its kind between the UTU and a large railroad, represents a fundamental change in our approach to safety for operating employees," says M. David Dealy, BNSF's vice president, Transportation. He said that both UTU and BNSF will focus on root cause analysis and corrective action to prevent injuries caused by behavior as well as injuries caused by environmental conditions.

"This process worked because of a team effort involving BNSF's top officers and UTU general chairpersons, who were determined to introduce a new safety culture," Boyd adds.

The UTU is the nation's largest railroad union with 125,000 members in the U.S. and Canada. BNSF operates one of the largest rail networks in North America, with 33,000 route miles of track covering 28 states and two Canadian provinces.

edited by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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