Safety is embedded in Norfolk Southern’s work culture. It is the “S” in our SPIRIT values and is first for a reason: Our No. 1 priority is to ensure a safe working environment for employees.
Employee Safety Comes First
Norfolk Southern’s overarching safety goal is to eliminate at-risk, high-impact behaviors that can result in fatalities, injuries, and operations incidents. Behavior-based safety processes, introduced in 2012 and still evolving, help create a positive working environment and reinforce safe work behaviors.
Safety performance is led by local safety and service committees at terminals, yards, shops, and facilities. These interdepartmental committees are chaired by employees in our mechanical, transportation, and engineering departments. This “bottom-up” approach is beneficial because it empowers employees to share responsibility for ensuring their own safety and the safety of coworkers.
Through positive reinforcement and coaching – and discipline, if necessary – we strive through behavior-based safety to promote safe behavior, discourage at-risk behavior, and improve working relationships between supervisors and employees.
Safety is reinforced daily. For example, operations employees hold job-safety briefings at the start of each shift and throughout the day to discuss work assignments, relevant safety rules pertaining to work activities, changing conditions, and potential hazards, such as weather.
Regular workplace safety checkups give managers and employees opportunities to recognize and reinforce co-workers who display safe working behaviors, or to offer coaching and constructive feedback to correct behaviors that could result in an injury or incident.
Training for Behavior-Based Success
In 2013, Norfolk Southern’s approximately 24,000 unionized craft employees received training in behavior-based safety. The training focused on peer-to-peer relationships and employees’ power to drive change, aimed at boosting the company’s safety performance, competitive edge, and business success.
“Long term, that’s what sustainability is all about,” said David Julian, vice president safety and environmental. “It’s doing the right things to sustain our company and create a much better culture for us.”