At BNSF Railway, that vision is workplace with zero injuries and the leader driving it is Brant Ring. Brant is the vice president of unit operations for BNSF Railway—the largest intermodal railway in the US, with over 32,500 route miles and thousands of workers. In this interview, Brant explains why BNSF Railway partnered with DEKRA to eliminate exposure and ensure safe performance every day.
The science is indisputable. All three types of fatigue, whether physical (body), mental (mind), or neurocognitive (brain), impair human performance. The most insidious and dangerous form in workplaces is neurocognitive fatigue, which is caused by insufficient Delta-wave or deep, restorative sleep that the human brain requires every 24 hours. The particular parts of the brain that suffer from this type of fatigue are the four lobes of the cerebral cortex—the parts of our brain that control cognitive processes such as pattern recognition, auditory discrimination, visual processing, memory, speech, reasoning, planning ahead, problem solving, and decision making.
How do you get better at safety? Especially in 2020 where in-person learning was practically impossible? In our experience, the answer depends on where your organization is on its safety journey. For some, there’s a need to develop safety leadership skills in supervisors. For others, the solution is broader exposure control, targeted risk management, remote learning or serious injury prevention. Still, others need a combination of all the above.
Employees face hundreds of exposures every day. These exposures can be as seemingly innocuous and commonplace as an uneven floor or a dimly lit workstation. They can be in the way people are encouraged to work by an organizational culture that hurries them to complete a job or turns a blind eye to shortcuts that keep production flowing. They can be remarkable for their lack of protective measures: machinery with faulty or missing guards, elevated tasks with no handholds or tie-offs, jobs with no clear procedure for working around chemicals or hazardous material.
Unloading shipping containers isn’t quite as easy as unloading groceries from your car. Workers must be aware of the many safety hazards that await them if done haphazardly. What are these hazards and what can an organization do to mitigate the risk of injury or worse?
Workers involved in the loading and unloading of containers should be appropriately trained in how to avoid risks such as:
Have you ever noticed a sign posted in a workplace stating, “this department has gone 365 days without an on-the-job injury” Would you assume that this is a really safe company? Or do you think there’s a catch behind the claim? Are they safe because they are doing the right things to prevent injury or are they lucky?
Imagine that a team of utility workers is using a personnel lift to replace a large, heavy transformer. While taking down the old transformer, a rusted fastener breaks and the transformer falls, striking the ground. The good news is that since the team recognized the risk of falling objects, they set up a huge safety zone on the ground to keep people away from the work area. They also wore their personal protective equipment (PPE) and tied themselves off to prevent falling. Because of the preventive measures that the team took, no one is hurt.
In the rapidly changing environment caused by the COVID-19 virus pandemic, leadership needs to access the latest reliable information and communicate with employees about steps being taken to stop the spread of the contagion. The pandemic has changed workplace safety, introducing significant stress and uncertainty. This can result in leaders doing fewer high-quality safety activities, because they are concerned they can’t answer the most pressing questions. Employee stress increases the probability of distraction when situational awareness is most needed.