Our Culture of Safety

Our employees' dedication and hard work makes safety a success at Norfolk Southern

Safety at Norfolk Southern is our No. 1 priority. It is the “S” in our SPIRIT values, and it is listed first on purpose. All of our other corporate values – performance, integrity, respect, innovation, and teamwork – link in some way to safety.

Our safety goal is to eliminate high-risk, high-impact behaviors and incidents that result in fatalities, injuries, and operations incidents. The safety processes we have implemented and continue to evolve have been developed with this goal in mind.

Norfolk Southern’s safety efforts start in CEO Wick Moorman’s office. Everywhere he goes on the system, he reminds employees to work safely, stressing that unsafe behavior has consequences for themselves, coworkers, the company, customers, and their families.

Our safety efforts are led by some 130 local safety and service committees at terminals, yards, shops, and facilities. These interdepartmental committees are chaired by operations employees in mechanical, transportation, and engineering. Department managers provide support and the resources to carry out safety initiatives. This “bottom-up” approach encourages buy-in, because employees share responsibility for ensuring that our safety processes are successful.

During the past year, we began a systematic effort to monitor the “leading indicators” of our safety performance. These indicators are processes we follow to ensure a safe working environment. One key leading indicator, for example, is job safety briefings. Operations employees are expected to hold safety briefings at the start of each shift and during the day when appropriate to discuss work assignments, special challenges they may face, such as weather conditions, and relevant safety rules based on work activities planned.

Another key leading indicator is safety “checkups.” Their primary purpose is to give managers and safety committee members an opportunity to recognize and reinforce the behavior of employees who follow safety rules. Through positive reinforcement, we are promoting safe behavior and discouraging undesired behavior while further improving relations between supervisors and employees.

For 23 consecutive years, from 1989 to 2011, our employees’ safety performance earned Norfolk Southern the Harriman Gold Award from the Association of American Railroads as the rail industry’s safest Class 1 railroad. In 2012, AAR ended the awards after 99 years, at the urging of members who wanted to focus on collaborating to make all railroads safer rather than treating safety as a competition.

Our employees’ commitment to safety has remained steadfast. It is their dedication and hard work that makes safety a success at Norfolk Southern.

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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:

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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:

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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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sustainability in action:

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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

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sustainability in action:

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sustainability in action:

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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:

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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:

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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