Behavior-Based safety

On track with culture change to improve safety and service

In 2012, Norfolk Southern began implementing changes in our safety and operating culture. We shifted to a behavioral science approach that emphasizes positive reinforcement to recognize safe work behaviors. The goal is to create a more positive work environment that further enhances safety and job performance.

Because safety and service go hand in hand at Norfolk Southern, our efforts to improve safety have contributed to improvements in customer service and gains in productivity.

“People in a wide variety of areas are more engaged in doing positive things to help make a difference,” said Mark Manion, executive vice president and chief operating officer, who has led the company’s efforts.

Assisting us is Aubrey Daniels International, a consulting firm that specializes in behavioral science processes to improve business performance. ADI has helped train our managers in behavioral science techniques and is involved in the expansion of training in 2013 to our entire workforce, focusing on peer-to-peer relationships.

Our use of behavioral science is strengthening relationships and building trust among supervisors and our unionized craft employees, who represent about 24,000 of the railroad’s approximately 30,000 employees.

“This is allowing us to reach common ground on things like safety, efficiency, and eliminating waste,” said Terry Evans, vice president of transportation, our largest department, with about 12,000 employees. “I am extremely excited about the opportunities here. When you talk about 12,000 folks working together with one goal in mind, the company wins, the customer wins, and I think the country wins, because what we do is important to our economy.”

Our company’s Operations Division Safety and Service Committee visits different work locations every month to meet with employees. Members have received good feedback about the culture shift.

“People really like the emphasis on positive reinforcement, recognizing the things they’re doing well, whether it’s around safety or around their productivity and work,” said David Julian, vice president of safety and environmental. “Our people are the ones who make this company work, and everybody likes to be reinforced on things they’re doing right.”

One employee making a difference PIC/NIC initiative
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Description of key impacts, risks and opportunities, how these are prioritized, performance progress and processes, how sustainability impacts financial performance, a table outlining performance targets, and governance mechanisms in place to manage these risks and opportunities.

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sustainability in action:

Creative thinking reduces energy use – and costs

Through our InnovatioNS program, Norfolk Southern encourages employees to look for ways to make their work safer, more efficient, and more cost effective. Brian Thomas’ ingenuity has saved the company money and contributed to its sustainability efforts. read more >

sustainability in action:

Committed to a greener workplace

Employees at Norfolk Southern have embraced the railroad’s sustainability efforts. At many locations across the system, employees such as Emily Hunter have taken the initiative to launch recycling and other green initiatives. read more >

sustainability in action:

A Norfolk Southern ‘River Star’

Ray Jones, a 32-year railroader, is committed to helping Norfolk Southern meet its pledge to be a good corporate neighbor and environmental steward. read more >

Creative thinking reduces energy use – and costs

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Committed to a greener workplace

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A Norfolk Southern ‘River Star’

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See all of our sustainability in action case studies

sustainability in action:

Keeping locomotives moving down the track

Norfolk Southern is continually looking for ways to increase the efficiency and productivity of operations. Devina Miller has played a key role in a Mechanical Department initiative dubbed Mission Critical. read more >

Keeping locomotives moving down the track

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See all of our sustainability in action case studies

sustainability in action:

A little effort, a lot of food for those in need

To strengthen the communities our railroad serves, Norfolk Southern promotes and supports employee volunteerism. Many employees, like Amanda Carpenter, volunteer their time, treasure, and talents to build community connections. read more >

sustainability in action:

Building community partnerships

Norfolk Southern strives to be a good corporate citizen. The railroad routinely partners with local, state, and federal government officials on projects that benefit communities and the country. Employees such as Ed Sites and David Dize are the ones who make these partnerships work. read more >

sustainability in action:

In pursuit of a dream

Norfolk Southern ensures that employees have ample opportunities to develop their skills and advance their careers. Jerome Perry is taking advantage of an NS program to further his education. read more >

sustainability in action:

Where good health meets good deeds

As part of its employee wellness program, dubbed WellNS, Norfolk Southern in 2011 introduced Power Train, an initiative that combines physical fitness and charitable giving. Misty Braden organized a Power Train team in Knoxville to help fund breast cancer research after a colleague was diagnosed with the disease. read more >

sustainability in action:

Partnering for safety

Safely operating our railroad is Norfolk Southern’s No. 1 priority. In addition to efforts to keep our employees safe on the job, we partner with communities in various ways to promote public safety. Employees Richard Vaughan and Greg Valentine demonstrate that commitment. read more >

A little effort, a lot of food for those in need

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Building community partnerships

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In pursuit of a dream

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Where good health meets good deeds

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Partnering for safety

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See all of our sustainability in action case studies