Boost Safety Culture With Assessments (and Follow Through), FRA Report Finds

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor


Safety culture improves when railroads participate in Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI)-sponsored safety culture assessments and follow through on recommendations, according to a new report from the Federal Railroad Administration Office of Research, Development and Technology.

FRA’s “Implementing SLSI-Provided Opportunities Supports Safety Culture Growth” report (download below) summarizes findings from an analysis of safety culture growth across 10 short line railroads that completed both an initial/benchmark (Time 1) and a follow-up (Time 2) safety culture assessment by SLSI, which provides such voluntary, non-punitive and confidential assessments at no cost to small roads.

The 10 core elements of safety culture (see chart below) were measured across 10 railroads, using the Time 1 and Time 2 assessments. The findings included:

• All 10 railroads improved their overall safety culture.

The 10 Core Elements of a Strong Safety Culture

• Eight out of 10 railroads had implemented most of the “safety culture opportunities” (recommendations) identified in the Time 1 assessment.

• Improvements were seen across all 10 core elements assessed.

“The analysis noted that results can be influenced by the number of opportunities identified from the Time 1 assessment that the railroad was able to fully implement, and the complexity of the improvement suggested,” SLSI summarized. “An additional factor noted in the results was how much time had elapsed between the Time 1 and Time 2 SCAs [assessments]. Railroads that had more time between the two SCAs had greater success in implementing the opportunities identified.”

“As an industry, there is no doubt that short line railroads prioritize safety,” SLSI Executive Director Tom Murta said. “The SLSI’s Safety Culture Assessment program and the commitment of participating railroads to engage fully in understanding and improving their safety culture has led to notable improvements across the railroads that have been assessed, and then re-measured with a Time 2 evaluation. We recognize the advantages that strengthening safety culture has had on participating railroads, and encourage short line railroads to take advantage of an SCA, and the over 600 years of industry expertise our team has to offer.”

In related developments, SLSI in October 2021 completed its 100th safety culture assessment.

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