BNSF RAILWAY SIGNS ACCORD WITH OSHA REGARDING EMPLOYEE PRACTICES

(The following is a reformatted version of a press release
issued by The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and
Health Administration, received via e-mail and confirmed by the
sender.) 
BNSF Railway Co. signs accord with US Labor Department’s OSHA
regarding employee practices under Federal Railroad Safety Act 
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety
and Health Administration has signed an accord with BNSF Railway
Co., headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, announcing BNSF’s
voluntary revision of several personnel policies that OSHA
alleged violated the whistleblower provisions of the Federal
Railroad Safety Act and dissuaded workers from reporting on-the-job injuries. FRSA’s Section 20109 protects railroad workers
from retaliation for, among other acts, reporting suspected
violations of federal laws and regulations related to railroad
safety and security, hazardous safety or security conditions,
and on-the-job injuries. 
“Protecting America’s railroad workers who report on-the-job
injuries from retaliation is an essential element in OSHA’s
mission. This accord makes significant progress toward ensuring
that BNSF employees who report injuries do not suffer any
adverse consequences for doing so,” said Assistant Secretary of
Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “It
also sets the tone for other railroad employers throughout the
U.S. to take steps to ensure that their workers are not
harassed, intimidated or terminated, in whole or part, for
reporting workplace injuries.” 
The major terms of the accord include: 
Changing BNSF’s disciplinary policy so that injuries no longer
play a role in determining the length of an employee’s probation
following a record suspension for a serious rule violation. As
of Aug. 31, 2012, BNSF has reduced the probations of 136
employees who were serving longer probations because they had
been injured on-the-job. 
Eliminating a policy that assigned points to employees who
sustained on-the-job injuries. 
Revising a program that required increased safety counseling and
prescribed operations testing so that work-related injuries will
no longer be the basis for enrolling employees in the program.
As part of the negotiations leading up to the accord, BNSF
removed from the program approximately 400 workers. 
Instituting a higher level review by BNSF’s upper management and
legal department for cases in which an employee who reports an
on-duty personal injury is also assessed discipline related to
the incident giving rise to the injury. 
Implementing a training program for BNSF’s managers and labor
relations and human resources professionals to educate them
about their responsibilities under the FRSA. The training will
be incorporated into BNSF’s annual supervisor certification
program. 
Making settlement offers in 36 cases to employees who filed
whistleblower complaints with OSHA alleging they were harmed by
one or more of the company’s previous policies. 
“Ensuring that employees can report injuries or illnesses
without fear of retaliation is crucial to protecting worker
safety and health,” said Michaels. “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.” 
Between August 2007, when OSHA was assigned responsibility for
whistleblower complaints under FRSA, and September 2012, OSHA
received ­­­1,206 FRSA whistleblower complaints. The number of
FRSA whistleblower complaints that OSHA currently receives
surpasses the number of whistleblower complaints that OSHA
receives under any of the other 21 whistleblower protection
statutes it enforces except for Section 11(c) of the
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. More than 60 percent
of the FRSA complaints filed with OSHA involve an allegation
that a railroad worker has been retaliated against for reporting
an on-the-job injury. 
The accord with BNSF Railway Co. can be viewed at
http://www.whistleblowers.gov/acts/bnsf_accord.html. 
The whistleblower provisions of the 22 statutes enforced by OSHA
protect employees who report violations of various commercial
motor vehicle, airline, nuclear, pipeline, environmental,
railroad, public transportation, maritime, consumer product,
health care reform, securities, food safety, and consumer
financial reform laws and regulations. 
Employees who believe that they have been retaliated against for
engaging in a protected activity may file a complaint with the
secretary of labor for an investigation by OSHA’s Whistleblower
Protection Program. 
Detailed information on employee whistleblower rights is
available online at http://www.whistleblowers.gov. 
For more information about OSHA, visit http://www.osha.gov. 
(sgp) NY 
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