Further Validation of Safety Culture Measurement Tool for Improving Safety in Commuter Rail Operations

Safety culture is shaping up as one of the more important areas of focus for safety improvement in the transportation industry. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has expressed interest in studying safety culture in railroad operations and recently FRA and BNSF engaged in a joint effort to review the BNSF Safety Culture (FRA, April, 2015). Also, FRA Administrator, Sarah Feinberg, noted "improving Metro-North's safety culture, preventing accidents before they happen and increasing worker safety," was important. FRA also states that "Multiple studies have confirmed what many have intuitively known all along" that safety culture plays a key role in accident prevention. However, visible progress towards established goals is a more effective motivator than money or personal recognition for the average worker in a world-class operation. Moving towards achievement metrics and away from failure metrics becomes increasingly vital. (FRA, August 2011) Accordingly, the present research is designed to continue the development of a viable measure of safety culture by continuing the validation process with a large commuter rail transportation organization. Recently, Sherry & Colarossi (2016) released a study that initiated the development of a tool to measure safety culture. The instrument was normed on a large sample of employees of a large public transportation agency (N=1909) participants were obtained. One-way between groups analysis of variance (ANOVA), and post hoc tests provided initial evidence of the validity and reliability of the Safety Culture Scale as a measure for the transportation industry in that the scale significantly differentiated (p<.05) between persons who had been involved in accidents and safety violations thus demonstrating the relationship between safety culture and accident rates. In addition, a follow-up study with a large regional transportation company demonstrated significant differences in safety culture and attitudes between key departments in the organization. A normative instrument designed and validated on railroad properties is needed because of the vastly different environment and set of operating practices, corporate culture, historical traditions, and unique set of working conditions. Much of the published material on safety culture has to do with nursing and hospital practices and oil and gas operations Several reports in news media have also questioned the commitment to a safety culture in some railroads. (Rail Workers Raise Doubts About Safety Culture As Oil Trains Roll On). The report noted that, "Critics claim the railway has long prioritized speed and profits over safety, with a history of retaliating against workers who report accidents, injuries and safety concerns." In addition, Canada's Transportation Safety Board identified a number of factors that likely contributed to the Lac-Mégantic derailment that resulted in a significant loss of life by noting that "In all, we found 18 factors that played a role -- take any one of them out of the equation and this accident may not have happened," TSB Chairwoman Wendy Tadros. Moreover, according to the report the railroad's upper management perpetuated "a weak organizational safety culture, refusing to update operating practices even as shipments of hazardous materials shot upward." In addition, the TSB noted the Montreal, Main and Atlantic (MMA), that owned the railroad, "was a company with a weak safety culture that did not have a functioning safety management system to manage risks," the agency said. Clearly, to continue to improve safety culture more than just rhetoric is needed. In fact, the development and implementation of a standard metric of safety culture is needed. Such a metric would enable the comparison of pre-post interventions as well as the normative comparison of organizations to each other. In addition, such an instrument will aid greatly in the identification of areas within an organization, such as departments, relationship between management and labor, training programs and other areas that are in need of improvement relative to establishing a strong safety culture. Essentially, such a tool could be used to create a road map towards the development of a more robust culture within in an organization. Thus, the proposed study will attempt to gather data that will continue to validate and provide normative comparison data on safety culture that will aid organizations in the development.


  • English


  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $185054
  • Contract Numbers:


  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology

    University Transportation Centers Program
    Department of Transportation
    Washington, DC  United States  20590
  • Managing Organizations:

    Mountain-Plains Consortium

    North Dakota State University
    P.O. Box 6050, Department 2880
    Fargo, ND  United States  58108-6050
  • Project Managers:

    Kline, Robin

  • Performing Organizations:

    University of Denver

    2199 S University Blvd
    Denver, Colorado  United States  80208
  • Principal Investigators:

    Sherry, Patrick

  • Start Date: 20170418
  • Expected Completion Date: 20180731
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • USDOT Program: University Transportation Centers Program
  • Source Data: MPC-532

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01646843
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Mountain-Plains Consortium
  • Contract Numbers: DTRT13-G-UTC38
  • Files: UTC, RiP
  • Created Date: Sep 26 2017 3:04PM