BNSF: A Record Year for Safety in 2023

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
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BNSF on Jan. 11 announced that it has completed a record year for workplace safety in 2023, with the lowest injury frequency rate in the company’s 175-year history.

According to BNSF, the Class I railroad, which is comprised of 37,000 employees, operated its 32,500-mile network without loss of life, and with the fewest number of employee injuries ever. Employee injury rates decreased more than 20%, and injury severity was down nearly 35%, year-over-year, leading the industry in safety.

Contributing to these figures are the 3,000 members of BNSF’s California Division, who implemented “RESET 5,” a new safety measure that the Class I says has helped the division collectively reach a record 75 injury-free days.

“It’s safety in surround sound,” said BNSF California Division General Manager Richard Dennison.

Photo Courtesy of BNSF via LinkedIn.

Several times through the day and during each shift, the on-duty trainmaster announces “RESET 5” on a microphone on each employee’s handheld radio and to work trucks. When team members hear the announcement, they stop what they’re doing and take a five-minute break to RESET (Review, Evaluate, Survey, Express and Teach) safety aspects of their task at hand.

“RESET 5 quickly gained traction here in Barstow,” said Ray Silva, switchman and safety leader,. “In addition to systematically having every team member stop and take a step back to reflect on safety, it’s also been a great opportunity for new team members to ask questions and for our more experienced railroaders to share their knowledge with the next generation.”

This safety record in 2023, BNSF says, “builds upon a first of its kind in the industry Transportation Safety Agreement (TSA).” The agreement, which BNSF finalized in 2022 with its transportation workforce, has “strengthened collaboration and communication between management and employees,” according to the Class I.

“Our performance in 2023 is a giant step forward in bringing us closer to our ultimate safety vision of a workplace free of accidents and injuries,” said BNSF President and CEO Katie Farmer. “This monumental achievement is a credit to the commitment and passion for safety demonstrated by everyone at BNSF, especially our Operations teams. Everyone—across all teams and crafts—remains aligned in our commitment to safety, and we thank all our employees on the front lines serving customers every day whose dedication to safety made this significant milestone possible.”

“Our membership is committed to safety and having those closest to the work lead this effort is showing positive results,” said SMART-TD General Chairman Rich O’Connell. Rob Cunningham, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) General Chairman added, “We take great pride in our dedicated members who prioritize safety in their daily work. The successful collaboration between labor and management, as evidenced by the TSA, stands as a testament to our effective model.”

Heading into 2024 and beyond, BNSF says its safety vision “continues to be a workplace free of accidents and injuries.”

“Our commitment and passion for safety is something that sets the people of BNSF apart,” said BNSF Executive Vice President and COO Matt Igoe. “The way we finished the year strong is clear proof of that. A special thanks to everyone who contributed throughout the year to take our safety performance to the next level.”

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