July 29, 2014

Close calls pilot tests positive on UP

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Union Pacific is four years into its five-year pilot Confidential Close Calls Reporting System (C3RS) and participants are giving it high marks for improving safety culture.

C3RS encourages engineers, conductors, trainmen and yardmasters to report close calls that may have resulted in accidents or injuries without fear of discipline or FRA enforcement action, even if rules violations are involved.

All C3RS reports by employees are collected anonymously and kept confidential.

The UP pilot program — one of four involving the UTU and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen — is supported by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Once confidential employee reports are submitted, they are examined confidentially by the U.S. DOT’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, which removes all identifying information.

That information is then transmitted to the carrier, where a C3RS peer review team recommends corrective action, such as improved training, changes in physical plant, changes in existing federal safety laws or regulations, changes in carrier operating rules, improved training and/or education.

Examples of close calls include varying levels of risk, such as leaving pieces of equipment unsecured, improper blocking, operating trains beyond track authority, or violating operating rules.

Union Pacific says that such analysis “has spurred systemwide change,” including “reformatting track warrants so they are easier to read.”

A UP officer said that C3RS is helping UP move from a blame culture to one that bridges communication gaps between employees and management.

Other Confidential Close Calls Reporting System pilot projects are being conducted on Amtrak (systemwide), Canadian Pacific at Portage, Wisc., and New Jersey Transit (systemwide).

“Non-punitive reporting produces safety data that could not otherwise be obtained while helping to identify and mitigate risks before another serious incident occurs,” said UTU International Vice President John Previsich, who has been helping to design and implement C3RS pilot programs.