US railroad giant Norfolk Southern says it has instituted several changes in response to a report by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on its safety and workplace environment. 

The Atlanta-headquartered company said it worked with the FRA and its partner  AtkinsRéalis US Nuclear to develop the response to the recommendations. 

Among the actions taken were several initiatives, including improved feedback and understanding with its workers on safety and training. 

“There’s been a major shift for the better with how we are collaborating with our labour partners,” said John Fleps, Norfolk Southern’s VP Safety.

“We are coming together with labour to do things differently. This new approach is already helping us to affect a shift away from a ‘compliance’ safety mindset (“have to”) towards a ‘commitment’ safety attitude (“want to”). This powerful safety culture transition is going to take time as we build trust, but it’s absolutely a force multiplier for safety outcomes. A commitment attitude is contagious, and it affects everything we do, from the smallest obligation to the biggest job,” Fleps added. 

Elmer Naples, chair of the AtkinsRéalis Independent Performance Assessment Team, said the increased collaboration was vital. 

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“From the very beginning, labour has played a critical role in identifying meaningful opportunities to help NS be a safer railroad. We’ve incorporated feedback from labour throughout our recommendations for how NS can improve its safety culture. The feedback we’ve received has been invaluable to our work,” they said. 

The company was the first to sign up to FRA’s C3RS whistleblower programme, which is intended to increase the reporting of close calls on the rail freight network. 

As part of the changing attitude at Norfolk Southern, president and CEO of the railroad has been giving “frequent updates” and briefings to the FRA. 

“We appreciate the strong partnership with FRA on advancing safety and are grateful for its thorough assessment of our culture and their thoughtful recommendations, all of which serve as building blocks to our goal of becoming the gold standard for safety in the industry,” Alan Shaw said. 

Norfolk Southern’s safety record has come under intense scrutiny since the East Palestine derailment, which forced the evacuation of civilians from their homes due to the hazardous chemicals spilled. The company recently settled a $300m legal challenge with federal authorities.