Wednesday, May 20, 2009

NS grabs its 20th consecutive E.H. Harriman Award

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For the 20th year in a row, Norfolk Southern has won the 2008 E.H. Harriman Gold Award for Group A, recognized for the best employee safety record among line-haul railroads whose employees worked 15 million employee-hours or more each year. CSX Transportation won the silver, and Union Pacific the bronze, within Group A.

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Within Group B, comprised of line-haul railroads whose employees worked four-to-15 million employee-hours annually, the gold went to Kansas City Southern Railway, KCS’s third year in a row. Canadian Pacific’s U.S. operations was awarded the silver, and Chicago-based Metra the bronze, within Group B.

Among Group C participants, railroads whose employees worked less than four million employee-hours during the award period, the gold award went to the Willamette & Pacific Railroad, while Florida East Coast Railway took the silver and the Wheeling and Lake Erie the bronze.

In Group S&T, for switching and terminal companies, the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis took the award for gold for the second consecutive year. The silver award went to the Birmingham Southern Railroad; Consolidated Rail Corp. (Conrail) received the bronze award.

Certificates of Commendation also were awarded to four railroads with continuous gains in employee safety improvements over a three-year period and showing the most improvement between 2007 and 2008. Those railroads include CSX Transportation (Group A), Metro-North Railroad (Group B), Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway (Group C), and the Belt Railway of Chicago (S&T).

The Harriman Awards were established in 1913 by Mary W. Harriman in memory of her husband, Edward H. Harriman.

In Washington Wednesday, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood praised the freight rail industry’s emphasis on safety. “Our nation's railroads and their employees can be proud of their safety record,” LaHood said.  "Our freight rail industry is the envy of the world, as the cleanest, safest, most efficient way to keep America's freight moving."

Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), stressed that the industry’s safety performance was no fluke.  "Railroads are the safest form of freight transportation today and such attention to safety has produced an enviable track record,” he said, adding, "I am delighted to report that this continuous emphasis on safety paid dividends last year in producing both the lowest train accident rate in history and the lowest employee injury rate in history."

On the individual level, BNSF Machinist Robert F. “Bob” Johnson was recognized as the 2008 winner of the Harold F. Hammond Award for railroad safety, honoring the employee who has demonstrated outstanding safety achievement during the preceding year.

Johnson, a machinist with BNSF for 36 years, has participated in and developed numerous projects and innovations, including bi-directional blue flags for worker protection, a universal fit locomotive stairwell platform, a structurally engineered traction motor storage rack, and a locomotive cab window removal tool and process.

Johnson is active in numerous railroad related community safety initiatives.  He volunteers for Operation Lifesaver, the nationwide, non-profit public information program dedicated to reducing collisions, injuries and fatalities at highway-rail crossings and in and on railroad rights-of-way.

Seven other industry employees were honored with Certificates of Commendation for their work in enhancing safety.  They include: David Cowan, a superintendent with Amtrak in Los Angeles; Gary Deval, a conductor with CN in Baton Rouge, La.; Trevor Shatek, a signal maintainer with Canadian Pacific in St. Paul, Minn.; Larry Davis, an electrician with CSX in Cumberland, Md.; Ronnie Benefield, a carman with Kansas City Southern in Monroe, Okla.; JerryBean, an engineer with Norfolk Southern in Decatur, Ill.; and Israel Maldonado, a carman with Union Pacific in Stockton, Calif.