BLE, BNSF sign agreement to create new era in employee safety

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) and The Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company (BNSF) announced an agreement in June that will launch a new era in railroad employee safety programs.

Through the agreement, which has been ratified by BLE members, a new safety culture will be introduced that focuses on the active participation of employees and BLE and BNSF leadership working as a team to create a safer workplace. The agreement also establishes an approach to discipline that further stresses training and counseling instead of punitive discipline.

"The BLE is happy to be a full partner with BNSF when it comes to safety," BLE International Vice-President Stephen Speagle said. "Accidents cost BNSF millions of dollars each year, but they cost our members their lives. The joint agreement - ratified by BLE members and negotiated by the four BLE general chairmen, with the assistance of the International Division of the BLE - will allow our members to fully participate in creating a safer working environment."

The agreement provides for BLE-represented safety people to assure that the agreement's procedures are being implemented and interpreted uniformly across BNSF's 33,000-route-mile system. Safety forums at different BNSF locations will address conditions that have to be corrected to improve safe production, replacing the previous reporting, cataloguing and investigative process.

Workplace coaching, counseling and retraining will replace the existing discipline process for non-repetitive and non-serious rules violations.

"This agreement represents a fundamental change in our approach to safety for operating employees," said M. David Dealy, BNSF's vice president, Transportation. "Both BLE and BNSF will focus on root cause analysis and corrective action to prevent injuries caused by behavior as well as injuries caused by environmental conditions."

Brother Speagle concluded, "The BLE believes that the new approach to discipline, which places a higher emphasis on training and counseling, will also contribute to a better and safer work place.

"The overwhelming ratification of the agreement by the BLE membership is further evidence of the need for change. We are hoping the appointment of BLE Safety Coordinators and the implementation of the new agreement will provide for the change that everyone agrees is necessary.

"We are proud to work with BNSF to make the work place safer for not just our members, but for everybody working at BNSF."


© 2002 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers