Speaking Up for Workplace Safety

Sustainability in Action

Pam Blakeney, system safety coordinator, thinks of Norfolk Southern as one big family. That view formed the basis of a campaign to support the company’s ongoing implementation of behavior-based safety processes.

Pam Blakeney, system safety coordinator, thinks of Norfolk Southern as one big family. That view formed the basis of a campaign to support the company’s ongoing implementation of behavior-based safety processes.

In 2013, Blakeney, who works in the Atlanta office, co-chaired a committee that developed the “Care to Speak Up and Share” campaign, an initiative that encourages employees to look out for their own safety and that of co-workers as well.

“When someone says, ‘I work for Norfolk Southern,’ it provides a common identity,” she said. “We are all on the same playing field. I don’t want you to get hurt, and I hope you don’t want me to get hurt.”

The campaign focuses on “peer-to-peer interactions.” For example, an employee who sees a co-worker observing a work-safety rule, such as maintaining three points of contact while dismounting a locomotive cab, is encouraged to offer recognition and positive reinforcement for the safe behavior. Conversely, employees are encouraged to offer coaching and constructive feedback if they see an at-risk work behavior.

The campaign’s logo is a handshake modeled on the iron “knuckles” used to link one railcar to another. “The knuckle that connects the cars, I felt, symbolized our workforce,” Blakeney said. “We all need to shake hands, knuckle up, and work together.”

Blakeney helped develop a simple five-slide PowerPoint presentation on the “knuckling together” concept of safety that supervisors can quickly share with employees to provide what she called “little tidbits to trigger your memory.”

When visiting field locations, Blakeney tests the new campaign’s success by intentionally not wearing safety glasses and waiting to see if someone will speak up. “The idea is to talk to someone,” she said. “Care to do it. If I care about you, you’re going to care about me.”

Blakeney added: “If we’re safe, we’re going to attract the most talented employees and we’re going to keep them,” she said. “Plus, safety and service go hand in hand. If we operate safely, we’re going to better satisfy the customer.”