Railroads Set Safety Record in 2004

WASHINGTON — Employees at the nation’s railroads reported their lowest employee casualty rate in history during 2004, Edward R. Hamberger, president and CEO of the Association of American Railroads, said May 19 at a luncheon ceremony honoring railroads with the best employee safety records last year.

Twelve railroads received gold, silver or bronze E.H. Harriman Memorial Safety Awards in four separate categories at the awards luncheon.

Hamberger told the audience that last year’s employee casualty rate was nine percent lower than it was in 2003, when the previous record was set. "And for the first two months of this year, the employee casualty rate is down an additional 20 percent from the same period last year."

Hamberger attributed the improvement to "a lot of dedication and hard work by the railroads and their employees. At its heart, safety is about those people who operate trains, maintain and repair tracks and signals, dispatch trains and maintain the industry’s 21,000 locomotives and 1.3 million freight cars."

Norfolk Southern Corporation took top honors for the sixteenth consecutive year in Group A, comprised of line-haul railroads whose employees worked 15 million employee-hours or more during the award year. In this category, the silver award went to the BNSF Railway while Union Pacific took the bronze.

In Group B, line-haul railroads with 4 to 15 million employee-hours, Metra, the Chicago commuter railroad, took the gold medal for the second consecutive year. The Soo Line Railroad, part of Canadian Pacific Railway, took the silver medal for the second straight year, while CN’s Illinois Central subsidiary took the bronze medal.

In Group C, line-haul railroads with fewer than 4 million employee-hours, the Guilford Rail System took the gold medal. The silver medal went to the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railway while the Providence and Worcester earned the bronze.

For Group S&T, switching and terminal companies, the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis won the gold medal for the third consecutive year. Conrail was named winner of the silver medal, also for the third straight year, while the Alton and Southern Railway took the bronze medal.

Four railroads received special certificates of commendation for continuous improvement in safety performance. They were the BNSF Railway; Long Island Rail Road ; Canadian Pacific Railway’s Delaware & Hudson unit; and Conrail.

The annual rail employee safety awards were founded in 1913 by the late Mrs. Mary W. Harriman in memory of her husband, Edward H. Harriman, a pioneer in American railroading. For many years, the program was sponsored by two sons, E. Roland Harriman and the Honorable W. Averell Harriman, now both deceased. The awards are currently administered under the auspices of the E.H. Harriman Memorial Awards Institute, with support from the Mary W. Harriman Foundation.

At the time the Harriman Awards were founded, railroading was considered among the nation’s most dangerous occupations. However, employee injury rates have declined sharply — with a 70 percent decline just since 1980 — and today railroad employees have injury rates comparable to those experienced by employees in retail stores and lower than those in other modes of transportation.

Winners are chosen by a committee of individuals in the transportation field. Awards are granted to railroads on the basis of the lowest casualty rates per 200,000 employee-hours worked, with a formula that takes into account the volume of work performed, as well as the number of fatalities, injuries and occupational illnesses, all documented and confirmed by the Federal Railroad Administration.