Norfolk Southern now allows employees to report safety concerns anonymously.
It is the first of the six major freight railroads to permit whistleblowing without the fear of disciplinary action. This initiative marks a step toward fulfilling the company’s promises after the 2023 derailment incident in eastern Ohio.
Collaborating to improve safety
The new reporting system results from a collaboration among the following organizations:
Confidential Close Call Reporting System
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen
International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers.
It is a pilot program for the railway but the U.S. Department of Transportation claims that the reporting system has a proven record of improving safety.
In the past, the major freight railroads have resisted joining anonymous reporting systems. Their reluctance stemmed from concerns that workers might abuse the system. Norfolk Southern’s new proactive approach challenges this resistance and sets an example for the industry.
Railroad unions are in favor of the system. The Federal Railroad Administration’s Amit Bose also expressed support. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg commended Norfolk Southern for taking this step. He urged other major freight railroads to follow suit in enhancing safety across America’s rail network.
Urging industry-wide adoption
While smaller railroads and Amtrak have embraced the government reporting program, other significant freight railroads have not yet signed on. These companies include Union Pacific, CSX, Canadian National, CPKC and BNSF. Unions and safety experts argue that such reporting systems are important in industries where there is a history of whistleblowers facing retaliation.
Although Norfolk Southern operates in Connecticut, this pilot program is currently limited to members of two unions operating in Atlanta, Georgia; Elkhart, Indiana; and Roanoke, Virginia.