It Starts with Culture.

Give your team valuable insight into your safety culture! Ensure industry-leading safety behavior, above and beyond baseline compliance, is practiced on your railroad by scheduling a Safety Culture Assessment (SCA).

The SCA is conducted onsite by a team of Short Line Safety Institute professionals and combines an online employee survey, onsite employee interviews, safety documents reviews and field observations.

At the conclusion of the SCA, railroad management will receive an in-depth evaluation of performance on their railroad, reviewed using the Ten Core Elements of a Strong Safety Culture, as adopted by the Department of Transportation’s Safety Council.

In addition, the Short Line Safety Institute team will provide resources and tools to address areas of opportunity on the railroad.

An Assessment is:

      • Voluntary
      • Non-punitive
      • Confidential
      • Free of charge to a short line railroad


In a study published by the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Research, Development and Technology, participating railroads that had completed a SCA reported making a change or taking multiple actions, based on their SCA, that created or improved the following indicators of a strong safety culture:

      • Safety committee (29 percent)
      • Safety action plan (35 percent)
      • Job safety briefing protocol (47percent)
      • Other safety communications with field employees (53 percent)

Railroads described the SCA process as highly valuable, and subsequently took actions to strengthen safety culture based on their SCA Report.

“I was excited to partner with the SLSI because I knew that no matter what the findings were, it would make us better! The Short Line Safety Institute has been an integral part of our success and has given us great direction. To have some of the greatest operating and safety giants of our industry step foot on to your property is a bit intimidating, but because we are committed to being the best that we can be, we were more than willing to learn from the best!”
Ross Grantham, Chief Operating Officer, Pioneer Lines


“I highly recommend the SLSI Safety Culture Assessment to any railroad seeking to gain a more safety-focused work culture. For the IANR, these efforts resulted in a positive attitude toward safety and a reduction in accidents/incidents.”
Mark E. Vaughn, Assistant General Manager, Iowa Northern Railway Company


“The assessors were professional, the opportunities presented were solid and the engagement has helped Anacostia raise our safety standards and enhance our safety culture on our affiliate railroads.”
Thomas A. Leopold, CSP – Chief Safety and Compliance Officer, Anacostia Rail Holdings

Next Steps

The Assessment is the beginning of the journey – take advantage of the Short Line Safety Institute’s 500+ years of railroad safety experience to provide follow up guidance, or technical assistance on a specific challenge.

Technical Assistance

The SLSI offers Technical Assistance to railroads that are looking to implement changes with the goal of strengthening their safety culture. Examples of assistance include activities such as designing a Safety Action Plan, engaging in strategies to improve safety communications, and offering assistance in building the structure and functionality of a Safety Committee.

SLSI’s industry experts can provide technical assistance, tailored to meet the needs of the requesting railroad, in person or remotely.

Contact Sam Cotton to discuss how the SLSI team can help you.

Follow-up Assessment

A Follow-up Assessment may be requested by railroads that participated in an initial Safety Culture Assessment, providing the opportunity to re-examine their safety culture. A follow up assessment establishes a new baseline for the railroad, identifies improvements made since the original assessment and identifies new opportunities to continue improving the safety culture on the railroad.

If a railroad has already completed an SCA with SLSI, contact Sam Cotton to schedule a Follow Up Assessment.

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Safety Culture Assessment

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Safety Culture Assessment Form

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Four Key Railroad Best Practices

Based on Assessments, high performance railroads exhibit four key practices.

Top management visibly supports safety

The importance of leadership in fostering a strong safety culture is indicated by the fact that almost all safety culture models explicitly mention leadership commitment to safety. Leaders across all layers of a railroad must model safety-first attitudes and behaviors. Employees learn what the accepted practices are on a railroad by following the examples set by its leaders. This may be illustrated by Leaderships ensuring that safety is prioritized over competing demands in such documents as mission and vision statements, participation in Safety Briefings, participating in Safety Committee meetings and making business decisions that consistently prioritize safety.

Training is continuous

Those who manage and operate the system must have current knowledge about the human, technical, organizational, and environmental factors that determine the safety of the system as a whole. With any changes in operations practices, staff changes, or new business being developed by the railroads, continuous training should be considered. Training can be delivered in a variety of formats, including face-to-face, webinars, conferences, etc.

Employees are empowered to act safely

Empowerment is ensuring that employees have the skills, knowledge, resources and authority to make safe choices within an acceptable range of options. Strengthening empowerment throughout the railroad could foster a safety culture in which employees and managers feel personally responsible for making decisions about safety.

No safety shortcuts are allowed

Railroads with a strong safety culture will consistently choose safety over performance when faced with the choice of cutting corners to increase performance. Training, empowering and consistently monitoring employees’ rules conformance can reduce the risk of employee work practices coming uncoupled from the railroads written rules and standards.

Top to bottom, all are committed to everyone working safely, and having a workplace that is free from accidents.