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BLE, CSX safety initiative makes SENSE

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Nov. 19 ­ A BLE-conceived safety initiative to enhance the ability of workers to address safety issues and recommend improvements will be tested by CSX Transportation, announced BLE International President Clarence V. Monin.

Called SENSE ­ Structured Employee Network for Safety Empowerment ­ the initiative revises CSXT's safety program and further extends the process into the ranks of BLE-represented engineers through ownership, credibility and accountability.

A team led by Monin developed SENSE after BLE membership indicated the need for such a program.

The BLE members above work through the implementation process of the SENSE project with representatives from the CSX management team at the company headquarters in Jacksonville, Fla. The BLErs were also appointed to Regional Safety Coordinator positions by their respective General Chairmen. They are, from left, Richard Taylor, CSX-West; Curtis Driggers, CSX-East; Mike Tanner, BLE District Safety Coordinator, Jacksonville Service Lane; Don Miller, CSX-North; and CSX's Mike Carey.

"This safety network is structured to involve and empower all employees in rules compliance and accident and injury prevention," Monin said.

"(CSXT president and CEO) Pete Carpenter and the senior management team at the company are sincere about improving safety and committed to surfacing issues through employee involvement."

"These union-driven initiatives, encouraged and supported at CSXT, represent powerful tools for making a safe railroad safer," Carpenter said.

"With these programs, we can further empower our employees by giving them another channel to communicate their safety concerns. I believe this may represent the beginning of a new era in labor-management cooperation, and a new compact with our employees."

Final touches are worked out by, from left, Coordinator of the BLE Education & Training Dept. Larry James; Arizona State Legislative Board Chairman Don Bergman; BLE Vice-President Bill Walpert; and CSX employees Lowell Hagen, Ted Snider and John McCormick.

SENSE uses employee mentoring to create the environment for an accident-free workplace, replacing confrontation with communication and trust, Monin and Carpenter said.

Safety issues and concerns will be channeled through union representatives to front-line field supervisors. Issue resolutions are reported back through the SENSE channels to employees.

Each BLE division will be broken down into groups of 10 with one appointed Safety Team Captain. Members will report safety concerns to the Team Captains. A Division Contact, appointed by members of the division, will handle the concern with a designated carrier officer. If the issue is not resolved at the local level, the Division Contact takes the concern to a BLE District Safety Coordinators.

The District Safety Coordinator addresses the concern with the designated division level carrier officer. If the concern is not resolved here, it goes on to one of the newly appointed BLE Regional Safety Coordinators, who will keep an ongoing database of all safety issues reported. The RSC will then forward the concern on to the respective BLE General Chairman for handling with the carrier Chief Executive Officer.

"We're proud to support SENSE and our locomotive engineers," Carpenter said. "This is an evolutionary process that will result in our company's collective ability to reach new levels of safety, service and growth."

"BLE members are going to be the driving force that insures a safe workplace on CSXT," President Monin said. ·

NS to change 'dry hopper' toilet system

CLEVELAND, Nov. 12 -- The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and the management of the Norfolk Southern Corporation have come to an understanding that will change the type of sanitation system currently used on NS locomotives.

BLE members have complained for years about the NS "dry hopper system," which has been compared to using nothing more than a bucket lined with a plastic bag for a toilet.

Through the hard work of Vice-President Paul Sorrow and NS General Chairmen Willard Knight, Stephen Speagle and Ray Wallace, the NS has agreed to update and modernize its toilet system.

"I want to thank the members for their participation on this issue," Vice-President Sorrow said. "Without their input and effort, Norfolk Southern never would have agreed to this change."

Nearly four months ago, General Chairmen Knight, Speagle and Wallace issued a survey to all BLE members on the Norfolk Southern system, asking for their input on the toilet facilities provided in NS locomotive cabs.

Based on the overwhelmingly negative feedback from BLE members, the General Chairmen were successful in coming to an understanding with NS management to change the current toilet system.

"We were able to realize the wishes of our members, and I'm happy that we prevailed," General Chairman Wallace said.

It will take time, however, before the new sanitation system is implemented.

"The type of system that will replace the current one has not been determined," wrote NS Vice-President of Labor Relations Robert S. Spenski in a letter to BLE General Chairmen. "When a new system is chosen to replace the current one, it will be phased in system-wide."

"We will continue to monitor the current sanitation system on Norfolk Southern and push for swift installation of the new facilities," Brother Speagle said.

The "dry hopper system" has been in use on Norfolk Southern since 1975, when NS and the United Transportation Union reached an agreement to adopt the toilet system throughout the property.

A meeting is scheduled for December 4 between BLE General Chairmen and NS officials to discuss the change and the phase-in period of the new system.

"This was a a true team effort," General Chairman Knight said. "We heard the voices of our members and were able to respond accordingly." ·

Safety concerns heighten on Union Pacific

BLE warns Surface Transportation Board to make safety No. 1 priority

With Union Pacific's rail operation coming under scrutiny again on December 3, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers warned federal overseers not to sacrifice worker safety in an effort to clear up freight service bottlenecks.

"The Surface Transportation Board approved the merger between Union Pacific and Southern Pacific without ever factoring worker safety into the equation," BLE President Clarence Monin said. "Too many engineers have lost their lives because this railroad was too busy to pay attention to the safety of its workers. When it comes to human lives, business should take a back seat."

The board opened a hearing at 10 a.m. on December 3 to assess what progress UP has made in clearing up its service backlog in the West. While most of the testimony will come from commercial shippers, a Federal Railroad Administration official also will discuss the agency's ongoing safety investigations, which were prompted by BLE protests after a series of crashes on UP rails.

"We applaud the FRA for stepping up on safety," Monin said. "This is the first time in my 32 years on the railroads that the FRA has taken a bipartisan position and functioned as it was supposed to function in the interest of workers as well as the industry."

The BLE called a strike on June 26 to protest UP's safety record after an engineer died in a fiery crash in Texas ­ the 24th workplace death by BLE members in the past four years. Although the company got a court injunction to halt the strike, Monin vowed "to do whatever we have to do to end this carnage on the rails. We are not going to die for the railroads anymore."

"The issue for the Surface Transportation Board is not just whether the merged UP/SP can carry the freight," he said. "It's also about whether the merged UP/SP carry out a sacred trust to preserve the lives of its rail workers." ·


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