Norfolk Southern, the operator of the freight train carrying toxic chemicals that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, nearly a year ago, has agreed to participate in a federal program that allows employees to confidentially report safety issues , company and federal officials announced Monday.
After the derailment, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called on Norfolk Southern and the nation’s other major freight railroads to join the program, one of a series of steps he urged them to take to improve safety. Was.
Railroads committed to participating in March, but in the months that followed, they pushed for changes to the program to address concerns about the way the program would function. None of the largest freight rail companies, known as Class I railroads, had officially agreed to join forces until Monday’s announcement.
Norfolk Southern’s participation in the program, known as confidential closed call reporting system, or C3RS, will be limited in scope. The railroad will run a one-year pilot program that will apply to about 1,000 employees in Atlanta; Elkhart, Ind.; and Roanoke, Virginia, which are members of two unions that represent a small portion of the company’s workforce of about 20,000 people.
“Norfolk Southern has taken a good first step, and now is the time for other Class I railroads to back up their words with action and join this close call reporting system and keep America’s rail network safe. Keep your promises,” Mr. Buttigieg said in a statement.
Norfolk Southern Chief Executive Alan H. Shaw said in a statement that the company “is committed to setting the gold standard for rail safety, and we are proud to be the first Class I railroad to deliver on our promise of co-service ” Develop and launch the C3RS program.”
federal program, which is modeled after a similar For pilots and other aviation personnel, allowing rail employees to report safety issues without worrying about potential discipline. But freight rail companies raised concerns that employees could take advantage of the program to shield themselves from punishment after making dangerous mistakes.
The Association of American Railroads, an industry group, said Monday that other major freight rail companies are still committed to joining the program.
“This commitment remains unchanged,” said group spokeswoman Jessica Kahanek. He added, “AAR and its member railroads collectively and individually are engaged in good-faith conversations with the administration and rail workers about strengthening the program.”