Tuesday, August 30, 2016

SLSI completes pilot phase

Written by 
SLSI completes pilot phase ASLRRA

The Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) marked an important milestone with the completion of the Pilot Phase of its work to assess and address safety culture gaps in the shortline and regional rail industry.

The six initial assessments conducted during the Pilot will heavily influence SLSI's ongoing work to provide education, training and research for shortline and regional railroads concerning safety culture. SLSI defines a strong, positive safety culture as one that puts safety above all competing organizational priorities.

"The SLSI has completed a significant milestone," said Ron Hynes, executive director, SLSI. "We now have a tried and tested, comprehensive program for evaluating and offering guidance to shortlines on safety culture on their railroads. Results generated from the pilot program provided a road map for progress and our team now has a solid understanding of the path forward."

During the Pilot Phase, SLSI said it developed tools and processes for measuring and evaluating 10 core elements of safety culture on railroads, created and implemented processes for sharing those results with management of assessed railroads, created a training program for and on-boarded seven assessors, completed six assessments on industry representative railroads and developed a plan for training, research and education moving forward.

The assessments have yielded several concerns that SLSI will strive to address, including:

  • While "safety first" may be stated as the mission at some railroads, emphasis can be weaker at the day-to-day operations level. Management must be visibly and consistently supportive of safety practices and culture for a greater result.
  • Safety practices do not always match documented safety plans. Managers should start with the operations' realities, and write a safety plan that is reflective of, and can be implemented by, employees in every day operations.

Mike Long, senior safety and operations manager, noted common positive themes evident in the assessments completed:

  • Management is looking for fresh ideas and training to assist in getting all employees in the organization performing at a high level of safety.
  • Management models the company commitment to safety on a daily basis.
  • Positive, not punitive, recognition builds trust among employees and management, versus the punitive approach of "catching someone doing bad," which has been common practice in the past.
  • Most railroad employees report that their peers look out for them; because of that support, they feel safe coming to work.

"Railroads have welcomed us to their properties, and found the process to be beneficial and well worth the staff time spent on the project," shared Long. "We look forward to serving the entire short line community in elevating and improving safety culture across our industry."

Seven assessments have been conducted since the Pilot ended and five more are currently scheduled to be completed by year end. Several more railroads, including some larger short line railroads, are planning for an assessment this year. "We have been picking up two assessments each month, with assessments currently being scheduled into 2017," said Hynes.

The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) developed SLSI with participation by the Federal Railroad Administration's Office of Research and Development. Program evaluation support has been provided by the Volpe Transportation Center and $500,000 was provided by Congress to develop the Pilot program on safety culture in 2015, followed by an additional $2 million in 2016 to continue the work of the Institute.

Get the latest rail news

The inside scoop from RT&S, IRJ and Railway Age on and off the track. Join our email list.