BLE member wins Hammond safety award

A.R. "Rudy" Bilka, a locomotive engineer and member of BLE Division 730 (Altoona, Pa.), was awarded this year's Harold F. Hammond rail safety award on May 2.

Two other locomotive engineers and BLE members were also honored for their commitment to safety. Brother Randy C. Caldwell of Division 636 (Silsbee, Texas) and David K. Roth of Division 232 (Laurel, Mont.) were two of five finalists presented with Certificates of Commendation for their work in enhancing safety.

Brother Bilka, who works in Norfolk Southern's Pittsburgh Division out of Altoona, Pa., has been employed for 31 injury-free years in the railroad industry.

BLE International President Edward Dubroski congratulated these Brothers for their hard work and dedication, which led to their recognition.

"All BLE members should be proud of the accomplishments of Brothers Bilka, Caldwell and Roth in enhancing safety," Dubroski said. "It is especially gratifying to see a friend, like Rudy Bilka, so honored. Rudy served the membership of Division 730 with distinction as a Local Chairman for many years, and I'm pleased to see him gain such high recognition for his devotion to the BLE and the cause of safety."

Brother Bilka remained humble about the honor, saying he had never even heard of the award until he had been nominated.

"I'm a small town boy who never expected anything like this," he said. "I'm just a locomotive engineer who's interested in safety, but it's nice to get a pat on the back every once in a while."

Numerous examples of Brother Bilka's commitment to safety were cited. As a member of the Altoona Safety Committee, he helped establish a simple goal for 2000: zero incidents and zero injuries. The Altoona District was the only operating district on the division to meet that goal. While chairing various subcommittees for the Allegheny Labor and Management Organization and with an eye toward enhancing safety, Brother Bilka also worked tirelessly to improve yard lighting, road paving, dismounting pads and locomotive design.

He credits his co-workers for helping create a safe work environment. In fact, after winning the award, he took it to work and hung it up to share with them.

"It belongs to my co-workers as much as me," he said.

While operating a locomotive in 1974, Brother Bilka saw a group of children crossing under trains. Alarmed at what he saw, Bilka became "Engineer Rudy." Clad in bib overalls, a red bandana and a pin-striped engineers cap, "Engineer Rudy" took his lifesaving message directly to the schools. Since then he has consistently spread the word to driver education classes, firemen, Boy Scouts, truckers, ambulance operators, college students, senior citizens and law enforcement officers.

In nominating Brother Bilka for the Hammond Award, NS Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer David Goode, wrote, "Mr. Bilka's dedication to safety shines brightly. People recognize and respond to the genuine article. When Rudy Bilka talks about safety, people listen, connect and react positively. He is a dedicated individual with a clear purpose, a person who make a difference - in short, a natural."

Five other railroad employees were honored with Certificates of Commendation for their work in enhancing safety. They are:

The Harold F. Hammond Award, established in 1986, is awarded to an individual railroad employee who has demonstrated outstanding safety achievement during the preceding year. It is named for Harold F. Hammond, former President of the Transportation Association of America, who had served many years as chairman of the Harriman Awards selection committee.

Brother Caldwell has put safety first throughout his 25-year injury-free railroad career. He served as a key member of the team that developed a work environment process which detects safety defects in the work place. The "Work Environment Safety Team" (WEST).

Some of Caldwell's other contributions as a safety leader include: development of an internal web site which communicates the work environment process to field personal; a newsletter for the Gulf division on the BNSF Railway that includes safety ideas for on and off the job; safety presentations across the BNSF system, including monthly divisional debriefings, which teaches employees to review their work area for safety defects; and development of safety training materials and audit questionnaires that are being used across BNSF's system.




2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers