News & Reviews News Wire Norfolk Southern appoints Atkins Nuclear Secured to lead independent safety review

Norfolk Southern appoints Atkins Nuclear Secured to lead independent safety review

By | May 26, 2023

Company has extensive experience in nuclear sector

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Workers and equipment around burned out tank cars
In the continuing aftermath of the February 2023, East Palestine, Ohio, derailment, Norfolk Southern has retained Atkins Nuclear Secured to complete an analysis of its safety culture and recommend improvements. Sol Tucker

ATLANTA – In another reaction to the devastating Norfolk Southern derailment in East Palestine, Ohio earlier this year, NS has appointed Atkins Nuclear Secured to conduct an independent review of the company’s safety culture. ANS has decades of experience, with a focus on the nuclear sector, and is one of the world’s most respected firms composed of safety, security, engineering, and project management experts. ANS and its predecessor companies have addressed some of the U.S. Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration’s toughest infrastructure and safety challenges.

Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw. NS

“The entire Norfolk Southern team is deeply committed to being an even safer railroad. The nuclear industry is the gold standard for industrial safety, and we intend to set the gold standard for the railroad industry,” Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan H. Shaw said in a statement.

With access across the company, ANS will report directly to Shaw and evaluate the company’s safety culture, safety-related training programs, employee engagement, oversight and monitoring, and communications protocols and practices. Opportunities to improve safety will be implemented in phases.

ANS personnel have extensive experience in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program and will be led by Admiral Kirk Donald, U.S. Navy (Ret.), the program’s former Director. In that role, Admiral Donald was responsible for the safe and effective operation of all U.S. nuclear-powered warships.

On May 23, Shaw and leaders of 12 unions representing Norfolk Southern’s railroaders jointly reiterated their shared commitment to safety in a letter to all of the company’s employees:

“We will collaborate, consult experts, review best practices, and listen to the people closest to the work. Working together – and broadening the conversation to ensure everyone plays a part – is the best way to achieve meaningful improvement. We will remain open-minded, nimble, and fact-based, making changes as we learn. Along the way we will continue to look for other ways to collaborate to improve the quality of life for our colleagues.”

5 thoughts on “Norfolk Southern appoints Atkins Nuclear Secured to lead independent safety review

  1. As a railfan, and one who has worked in nuclear plants, and a NS shareholder, I an very please with NS;s decision to hire a company loke ANS to evaluate it;s Safety practices and perhaps its culture. It will be interesting to see how entrenched habits resist change. I still remember train crews referring to it as Natzi Southern. But I hope change can occur.

  2. We passenger airlines go years without a fatal accident. The airlines use crew resource management techniques that prevent one issue from causing accidents.
    An airplane is worth millions. An accident costs millions more. How is it that one sector of transportation values its people.

    1. “How is it that one sector of transportation values its people.”

      Becuase that sector of transporation came along a lot later than the other.

      Railroads still cling to their coal and boiler values along with having way, way more legal authority to operate. Air travel came much later and after several accidents that killed passengers, were forced to increase their professional standards at a much more rapid and comprehensive pace to stay in business.

  3. Excellent! Taking responsibility but also taking action to find and deal with root causes in their culture. The CEO is not hiding behind a PR firm or a lawfirm, he is out there getting it done.

    I hope the AAR takes heed of what Atkins finds.

    1. Let me put it this way: when working on the railroad (after 20 years in commercial nuclear power) I outlined to my manager a training program that met Fed regulations and about how long it would take. He laughed and said, “We don’t have time for that.” Well, here we are.

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