The American Short Line Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) has honored Jose Jimenez, Machinist, The Belt Railway Company of Chicago (BRC) as Safety Person of the Year, and Travis Herod, SVP of Environmental, Health and Safety at Watco Companies (Watco) as the Safety Professional of the Year.
The Safety Person of the Year award pays homage to a non-management employee who exhibits knowledge and practice of safety procedures within their company, with no reported self-injuries, and contributes off-duty time to safety procedures and awareness in their communities.
In May 2019, BRC experienced its second reportable injury of the year. A detailed analysis of the causal factors of the recent injuries and the group’s processes and procedures came from the determination of Jimenez, a 24-year veteran of the Mechanical Department at the BRC.
Jimenez identified that the hazards did not lie in the major infrequent projects, such as engine overhauls. Instead, the lack of standard processes within the common tasks of the department exposed a set of risks that had been overlooked. Standard tasks of a shop were reviewed, which directly influenced the approach that his shop took toward risk reduction in their workplace.
Jimenez took the lead in producing new and improved safety procedures within his workplace. Through the adjustments of pinch points, safety chains, general housekeeping and the use of proper tools, he altered the effectiveness of his work group, and the safety of what they did, resulting in renewed focus on the part of the workgroup to put their performance in line with BRC’s core competencies, ensuring that each of them went home safely every day. As the results improved, motivation improved, and his actions began to influence the entire team. Most important, BRC has seen no additional injuries since the project was initiated.
Off-duty, Jimenez continues to heed the strong call to service as his son’s basketball coach, engaging in school activities, and serving as a volunteer for the Special Olympics alongside his wife, Maggie.
The Safety Professional of the Year award distinguishes an individual who demonstrates excellence via their communication and leadership skills in the interest of safety, is selfless in his or her actions, and consistently documents safety achievements as a team leader.
Throughout his 20-year career, Herod has been a driving force behind Watco’s safety programs and training courses, including leading the company’s new shift in safety philosophy, Watco’s Safety Management System. The program has led to a much more proactive approach in preventing incidents and accidents, while also creating higher levels of engagement from Watco team members. This includes safety suggestions, near-miss reporting and SAFE Observations. According to the company, the results from the program in 2019 were profound, finishing the year with record-low safety metrics, and 2020 is trending even better, headed for a second record-breaking year in a row.
Herod’s emphasis on safety extends beyond his on-duty time at Watco. Throughout the course of a workday, Herod reminds coworkers of safety procedures, both for work and at home. He serves as a mentor to new leaders in the safety industry. Each Sunday evening, he emails the entire Watco team with a safety message on relevant topics and positive encouragement. On weekends and evenings, he volunteers for community safety organizations such as Operation Lifesaver and the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, which supports veterans causes, and veterans suicide prevention initiatives. On their horse farm in Alabama, he and his wife provide VA home visits, nursing home visits, and veterans and special needs outreach through equestrian activities.
Herod holds industry safety certificates including Licensed Safety Professional (LSP) through the National Association of Safety Professionals (NASP), and a Certificate in Safety Management through the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP).
“Our short line members value safety above all else, staying focused on keeping everybody on and around the railroad safe, despite multiple competing priorities,” said Chuck Baker, President, ASLRRA. “The 2020 award winners have prioritized safety day in and day out throughout their careers, on their own railroads and in their communities. We are honored to recognize their dedication to bringing each employee home safely every night, and grateful for their contributions to the freight rail industry.”
“Jose is an employee that any railway could only hope to have, one who takes an interest in the lives of others, and who spends personal time helping people, some of whom he may never have known,” says Harold Kirman, Secretary and Director of Compliance. Kirman went on to say that Jimenez “serves as an inspiration to his colleagues, and to the entire BRC organization, never being satisfied with the status quo, while setting an example for all of us to follow.”
“Travis has initiated a number of programs and training courses geared toward not only teaching safety but also being proactive when it comes to safety,” said Nick Coomes, Chief Operating Officer of Watco. “Travis is widely respected both within Watco and throughout the rail industry including by customers, suppliers, vendors and other operators. He leads by example but is also able to develop impactful relationships fostering safe behaviors.”