BNSF Railway Co. has signed an agreement with OSHA to address alleged violations of the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). As a result, the railroad will change several safety and personnel policies.
The major terms of the agreement include:
- changing its disciplinary policy so injuries no longer determine the length of an employee’s probation for a serious rule violation (BNSF has reduced the probations of 136 employees as a result)
- eliminating a policy that assigned points to employees who suffered on-the-job injuries
- revising a program so work-related injuries will no longer be the basis for enrolling employees in a program that required increased safety counseling
- implementing a training program for BNSF‘s managers and HR professionals to educate them about their responsibilities under the FRSA, and
- making settlement offers in 36 cases to employees who filed whistleblower complaints with OSHA alleging they were affected by the company’s policies.
This agreement doesn’t constitute an admission of liability or wrongdoing on BNSF’s part. BNSF expressly denies any such liability or wrongdoing.
“If employees do not feel free to report injuries or illnesses, the employer’s entire workforce is put at risk because employers do not learn of and correct dangerous conditions that have resulted in injuries,” said OSHA administrator David Michaels.
OSHA has put more emphasis on whistleblower cases under Michaels’ direction.