Short Line Safety Institute Study Identifies Opportunities to Accelerate Progress Across Industry

WASHINGTON, D.C. – August 9, 2017 – The Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) has completed a systematic review* of Safety Culture Assessments completed during the pilot program and first year of operations. The study pointed to three measurement categories that particularly influence a positive safety culture, as well as areas for further improvement, which will be addressed through training and education developed by the SLSI.

“With a full year of safety culture assessments to draw upon, we’ve confirmed that the concept and benefits of a strong safety culture is understood and highly valued among short line and regional railroads,” said Doc Claussen, Chairman of the Board of Directors of SLSI. “The results also show that there are areas where the Safety Institute can be particularly helpful, including providing systems for reporting the resolution of safety concerns, programs for coaching and mentoring, procedures for reviewing the rules, and tools to ensure the consistent communication of formal discipline practices.”

The analysis identified three ‘theme areas’ that particularly influenced the strength of safety culture on a railroad – Management Presence, Encouraging Participation, and Evidence of Safety Values. Within each theme, frequency of response showed the prevalence of strengths, gaps and opportunities in Safety Culture across the railroads studied. Railroad employees favorably reported practices such as:

  • Employee ability to approach management with a safety concern
  • Mutual trust among employees
  • Availability of personal protective equipment
  • Job briefings
  • Accountability and responsibility for safety
  • Formal safety training
  • Helping co-workers

Based on the results of the study, education, training and communication plans will be updated by the SLSI to address opportunities identified, including:

  • Systems for reporting safety resolutions
  • Mentoring training
  • Leadership/management training
  • Procedure for reviewing company rules and procedures
  • Quantity and quality of safety communications

The study was conducted as part of the Institute Program Evaluation effort led by Volpe, the National Transportation Systems Center. In addition to producing these industry-level findings, the evaluation team also reviewed the assessment process to offer feedback contributing to the strong and scientifically sound methodology employed by the SLSI in their assessments of participating short line and regional railroads.

“The Short Line Safety Institute has provided significant value to the railroads assessed to date,” said Tom Murta, Executive Director of the Short Line Safety Institute. “The team is constantly evaluating our processes and the results to identify areas where we can be even more valuable to the short line and regional railroad industry, through training, toolkits, and recommended procedures – all to meet our mission of enhancing the safety culture and safety performance of short line and regional railroads.”

The SLSI is a non-profit corporation that conducts safety culture assessments and is an educational, training and research source for short line and regional railroads concerning safety culture and other safety initiatives. In addition to Safety Culture Assessments, the organization also provides a variety of education programming, from in-person interactive workshops, to online webinars, to helpful tips for Safety Briefings. In 2016, 19 assessments were completed, and 22 have been scheduled for 2017.

* Study was conducted by Volpe, the National Transportation Systems Center from aggregated Safety Culture Assessment results.