CSX’s Commitment to Safety Questioned after Derailment

After a series of railroad mishaps, CSX Transportation recently announced it was dedicating its resources to a renewed focus on safety. The railroad industry giant obtained the services of Dekra, a transportation safety firm, to analyze its operations and provide a report with recommendations for improving its safety performance.

Unfortunately, before the report could be issued, a CSX train derailed in Indiana, creating a propane fire and explosion that caused a mandatory evacuation within a one-mile radius. The incident has caused some to question CSX’s true commitment to safety (Princeton train derailment casts new doubts about CSX’s safety culture).

CSX is accused of emphasizing efficiency at the expense of safety through a process called “precision scheduled railroading,” which has led to fewer, but considerably longer, trains and the elimination of thousands of jobs. According to some CSX employees, the company’s fixation with running on time has compromised its ability to live up to its own safety standards.

CSX employees claim that:

  • Workers are pressured to skip safety checks to ensure trains are on time
  • Managers approve nonexistent inspections because delays could cost them their jobs
  • Lower level workers are forced to take the blame whenever safety issues arise

Although its competitors have seen their accident rates fall over the last few years, CSX has seen their accident rate continue to increase. A South Carolina collision between Amtrak and CSX trains earlier this year killed two and injured 116.

“That accident was very much of a ‘safety culture’ thing,” said former Federal Railroad Administration director Steven Ditmeyer. “There were multiple failures there. I view that as very much related to a deteriorated safety culture.”

As you might expect, CSX defended its commitment to safety. “There is no higher priority than safety at CSX. Nothing is placed above it,” CSX spokeswoman Laura Phelps said. “Our goal is to be the safest railroad.”

Railroads are always going to provide lip service to the idea of safety. But until they put their money where their mouth is and prioritize safety at the expense of profits, America’s railroad workers and passengers will continue to be at risk.

If you have been injured in a railroad accident, it is vital that you hire an experienced attorney. P

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