Safety Rolls Along at CSX Transportation

Sept. 12, 2003
'Safety presents a challenge when your 34,000 employees, and much of your equipment, travels over the 23,000 miles of the largest rail network in the

Safety presents a challenge when your 34,000 employees, and much of your equipment, travels over the 23,000 miles of the largest rail network in the eastern United States.

By Sandy Smith

Safety is a way of life at CSX Transporation (CSXT), says Robert R. Downing, vice president of Safety. "We work hard at safety for several reasons," he explains. "One, to make sure employees go home the same way they came in: uninjured. Two, our customers demand damage-free delivery. Three, we have to be a good corporate citizen."

Last year, he says, CSXT delivered 480,000 hazardous shipments. "It is essential we move them in a safe manner, for the communities where we do business, for our employees and for our shareholders."

Key elements of the CSXT occupational safety and health program include:

Training - Engineers and conductors are required to undergo annual training and testing on safety, environmental and operating rules. CSXT has been a leader in implementing this annual training through interactive learning pods at all major operating locations. The interactive training pits crew members'' skills against what is referred to as "the golden run," the most efficient, safe run possible. The learning tool helps crew members determine where their skills are lacking and how they can operate their equipment in a more safe manner.

"We spend $80 million a year on training," Downing reveals. "It''s the single largest cost item we have."

Local Safety Committees - Dedicated management and labor representatives bear the primary responsibility for implementing safety programs at the grassroots level. Committee members design and implement safety awareness events, produce educational materials and reward outstanding safety performance. They also continually examine safety practices and regulatory compliance and identify safety issues that require escalation to the next level of support.

Safety Overlap Committees - Through the CSXT Safety Overlap Committee process, concerns are resolved locally and passed upward so improvements can be integrated into the organization. Safety information and best practices are passed on through the overlapping members of the committees. In this way, the best ideas are shared throughout the CSXT network

Daily Job Briefings - Safety at CSXT is an hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute endeavor. Every work activity starts with a job briefing in which employees discuss the work to be done, any potential hazards, personal protective equipment needed for the job, the current working conditions and specific safety focus areas for the day, week or season.

Safety Leadership Process - CSXT believes that every employee must understand that he or she is empowered and accountable for working safely. The Safety Leadership Process focuses on behaviors, encouraging managers to spend time in the field with employees, addressing unsafe work habits, reinforcing safe work habits and initiating safety dialogues.

Kathy Burns, assistant vice president of Safety and Culture says last year, senior managers made 72 trips and talked to over 8,000 employees personally. They are on track to visit even more employees this year, she adds.

More than 4,500 managers have been trained in the Safety Leadership Process, but the initiative hasn''t stopped there. Some 24,000 railroad union employees also have received the training, which provides them with techniques for discussing safety issues with fellow employees in a respectful, non-confrontational manner.

Train Accident Analysis and Prevention - CSXT''s train accident prevention program has been benchmarked by railroads of all sizes. At the heart of the program are Train Accident Prevention (TAP) Committees, whose responsibilities include analyzing the reports generated by accident investigation teams and assisting field managers in their efforts to eliminate future derailments.

Hazardous Materials - Of the 480,000 carloads of hazardous materials transported by CSXT in 2002, only eight cars released any portion of their load as a result of an accident - a better than 99.9 percent safety record. This outstanding record is the result of many factors, from modern equipment outfitted with multiple safety features to extensive training and education programs designed to make CSXT employees and customers aware of the need to properly handle hazardous materials.

Hazmat Sentinels program - A decade old this year, the Hazmat Sentinels program equips a select group of CSXT employees with specialized hazardous materials and emergency response training. These employees are strategically located across a 23-state network. More than 80 CSXT employees are HazMat Sentinels, and 20 of those are part of an advanced group - Sentinels Plus.

New HazMat Sentinels receive an initial rigorous 40 hours of specialized hazardous materials training in Pueblo, Colo. After that, sentinels go through two and a half days of annual refresher training. Additionally, members of the Sentinel Plus team receive almost 100 hours of training in advanced hazmat response techniques.

Sidebar: Message from the Top

"CSX''s safety policy is clear," says Michael J. Ward, chairman and CEO. "We are committed to provide transportation services in a manner that will ensure the safety of our employees, our customers and the communities we serve. ''Safety is a Way of Life'' - it is one of our company''s five core values and it''s the foundation for everything else we do.

"Another of our core values is ''People Make The Difference.'' Our people are the heart of our safety processes. It''s our people working together - union and management alike - that has led to the improvements we''ve seen and will enable us to achieve our ultimate goal of zero injuries and accidents.

"Our safety vision is to be widely seen as the industry leader in safety. From the chairman''s office to the dedicated men and women handling trains, track and rail cars - we aspire to that vision every day through an unwavering commitment to safety."

About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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