Proud Record of Working Safely

Employees take pride in maintaining outstanding safety performance. Evidence of their commitment is seen across the system. Some examples from 2013 are:

2 Million Hours

Employees at the Roanoke Locomotive Shop, in Virginia, became the second work group to achieve 2 million consecutive employee-hours of service without a reportable injury. Employees at the Enola Locomotive Shop, in Pennsylvania, became the first group to achieve the 2 million-hour mark in 2012.

1 Million Hours

Employees at three locations achieved 1 million consecutive hours of reportable injury-free service. They were:

Zero Injuries

Many Operations Division work groups served in 2013 without a reportable injury. By department and group, they include:

Engineering Department

Mechanical Department

Transportation Department

Support Services

Serious Injuries Down in 2013

Norfolk Southern’s operations employees work in all kinds of weather and around large, moving pieces of equipment. A majority of reportable injuries on the railroad stem from slips, trips, or falls -- always a potential when employees work on equipment or walk on rock ballast around railroad tracks. Other common reportable injuries relate to overexertion, sprains, and muscle pulls.

A safety highlight of 2013 was a decline in serious injuries. We recorded 53 serious injuries, a decline of more than 5 percent from the 56 reported in 2012. We classify serious injuries as death or one of the following that results in seven or more lost work days: amputation, concussion, dislocation, fracture, internal injury, laceration, one-time exposure to fumes or chemicals, burns, electric shock, rupture or tear, or crushing injury.

Overall, the company experienced 336 reportable injuries, a 41 percent increase over the 239 reported in 2012. Reportable injuries, as defined by the Federal Railroad Administration, are those in which an employee might have required medical treatment, received prescription medication, received a physician’s recommendation for restricted activity, or received a physician’s recommendation to take time off from work.

Unfortunately, we experienced one fatal injury. In May 2013, a track maintenance-of-way employee with seven years of seniority in our Engineering Department was killed when he was trapped by a mudslide while working on track near Black Mountain, N.C.

2013 safety statistics

Achieving a Safety Milestone

An overhead banner in the Roanoke Locomotive Shop proclaims: “Safety Protects People/Quality Protects Jobs.” Employees take that slogan to heart. In 2013, the shop’s 236 employees celebrated 2 million consecutive employee-hours without a reportable injury, an injury-free streak that spanned six years.

“The participation of people on the shop floor is the key,” said Kevin Fletcher, a boilermaker and chairman of the shop’s safety and service committee during the year. “If they see something, they speak up.”

Active support from shop management also is important. “If there’s ever a problem or something needs to be fixed, it’s never, ‘We’ll have to wait and see’, or ‘We’ll get it when we can,’ ” Fletcher said. “It’s taken care of right then.”

Machinist Brian Porterfield, with no reportable injuries during 22 years at the company, credited teamwork: “We look out for each other and keep each other safe.”

Cecil Greene, a boilermaker with two years of experience, said veteran employees model good safety behavior and reinforce that with less experienced coworkers. “The first day I walked in this shop, they were making sure I had everything on – earplugs, hard hat, safety glasses, and jacket,” he said.

The shop’s safety and service committee helped develop a program that allows employees to identify safety focus areas, such as communication on the shop floor or safe operation of shop equipment. Employees use cards supplied by the committee to record instances of co-workers demonstrating proper work behaviors, and they are encouraged to reinforce those safe behaviors on the spot. They also can point out coaching opportunities. Employees drop the cards in collection boxes, and the results are graphed and discussed during shift safety meetings.

Detroit Team Spreads Safety Message

In more than eight years of operations, the Detroit Terminal has experienced one reportable injury – an employee who pinched his finger in a vehicle door. A couple of years ago, employees chalked up an impressive 1 million consecutive hours of service without a reportable injury.

In May 2014, members of the terminal’s safety and service committee represented Norfolk Southern in Atlanta at the Railroad Safety Leadership Forum, an event sponsored by the Association of American Railroads to share industry best safety practices. The Detroit Terminal was selected because of its successes in implementing behavior-based safety principles, including efforts that focus on peer-to-peer reinforcement of safe behaviors and constructive correction of unsafe work behaviors.

Dave Arnovitz, terminal superintendent, said employees from all operations departments conduct joint safety checkups to keep lines of communication open.

“This has led to some of the best safety metrics that Detroit or any other place on Norfolk Southern has had,” Arnovitz said. “The bigger best practice is people treating each other with respect and looking out for each other all the time, every day, and just getting better and better.”

Ergonomics at Work: Job Tasks Get Easier

Operations employees at Norfolk Southern often lift, stretch, and bend as they work on locomotives, railcars, and track. Two years ago, Norfolk Southern created the “Ergo Cup” competition to recognize employees who devise innovative ways to improve equipment, tools, or work processes that make jobs easier to perform and enhance safety.

In 2013, mechanical and engineering employees from across the system submitted 40 ergonomic design projects. The winning entries, judged by professional ergonomists from Coca-Cola, Georgia-Pacific, and Liberty Mutual, reflected innovative problem-solving and teamwork.

A team of Roanoke Locomotive Shop employees represented Norfolk Southern at the National Applied Ergonomics Conference in Orlando, Fla., for creating a device used to replace or install battery charger cables on a locomotive. They fashioned the simple, yet elegant, device from a metal pipe clamp and a piece of Schedule 80 pipe. The “battery charger receptacle tool” improves arm and shoulder postures, making it easy for one person to replace or install the cables.

Mechanical employees from the Bluefield, W.Va., car shop won a first-place award for developing a procedure that reduces the exertion required to grease an overheated railcar wheel roller bearing. From engineering, a Charlotte Roadway Shop team earned a first-place award for developing a hydraulic rail saw that cuts through rail faster than available off-the-shelf equipment can while also reducing operator effort and enhancing safety.

The Ergo Cup evolved from the railroad’s commitment to workplace ergonomics, a part of safety that seeks to “design the job to fit the employee.”