Our Culture of Safety
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.