It’s Not Always About You

This year’s ASLRRA regional meetings were a little bit different in content than in years past. With the advent of the Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI), it was decided that the first morning of the meetings would be dedicated to showcasing what the SLSI would be looking at and for when they were doing a site evaluation. In what was really a first for these meetings, all attendees were involved in an exercise that basically made each person an SLSI evaluator, and everyone got a chance to really see what talking the talk and walking the walk is in a true safety culture.The vast majority of the attendees loved the exercise, and even those who did it in multiple cities were big fans of the exercise itself and the interaction between the attendees that it fostered. And while it was a clear majority, there were some voices that popped up from the minority. The one that really caught my attention was a supplier who, in more than one instance said that he didn’t feel the exercise did anything for him since he was a supplier and really didn’t get involved with the in the field safety culture that was covered. Thank goodness that he was in the minority.Now I generally shy away from religious references in my writings, but in this instance, there is a section of the Jewish Passover Seder readings that come to mind, and that is the story of the four sons, and how the story of the Exodus from Egypt is to be described to them (for those of you who are fuzzy on the whole story, just watch the Ten Commandments the next time it is on television). The four sons are the wise one, the wicked one, the simple one, and the one who has no capacity to inquire.For the wise one, you are to teach him all that you can, and include him in as much detail that you can. As for the wicked one, you teach him, but you show what it meant for you, not him. For the simple son, it is a matter of keeping the teaching at a level that he can understand. And for the one who does not know how to inquire, you have the responsibility to take the time to teach him from the most basic concept, and let him gain understanding as his skills grow.While I wouldn’t call my fellow supplier wicked, he really did exhibit the traits of the wicked son. Safety wasn’t about him, and because of that, the whole intent of the exercise was lost. What also surprised me was that the exercise was a great opportunity to interact with attendees that you wouldn’t normally get a chance to speak with, and he was ready to dismiss this out of hand.The bottom line here is that while you may not be the focus of the discussion, it is still important to be in the discussion. Safety culture is one of, if not the most important thing facing our industry right now, and while it may not touch you directly, it does touch those who you may work with or sell to.
steven-fb.jpg Steve Friedland, vice president and general manager of Massachusetts Central Railroad, is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. He got his start with the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, where he worked for 22 years in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He has served as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR’s Wireless Communications Committee and was chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He is currently a member of the ASLRRA’s board of directors.