While employees have had to adjust to COVID-19, they keep the railroad functioning.
Mechanical Superintendent Hugh Simon said he’s impressed with employees’ “willingness to adapt and get the job done with very little disruption” and that it’s led to an “extremely successful” COVID-19 response.
Employees in the diesel and car shop, as well as yard inspectors participate in social distancing measures. This has required changing safety briefing locations, keeping people separate during lunch and using masks when maintaining a 6-foot separation is not possible.
Any way to mitigate risk has been instituted. Yard inspectors are allowed to leave shifts early to avoid large congregations, which means a shift change that usually included 12 people only includes six. Yard inspectors, who have to enter data into computers in the Car Shop, are able to use separate workstations in a training room, instead of using the more confined yard office.
Mechanical employees work to keep their fellow employees safe by disinfecting the cabs of 29 locomotives as they come in for servicing. The also supply each unit with its own bottle of disinfecting spray so employees can clean between shifts.
Transportation crew availability has remained at normal levels despite COVID-19.
Terminal Superintendent Terry Hartwig appreciates the dedication of the field employees who make that happen.
“Everyone has stepped up and went above and beyond for each other,” he said. “We don’t survive without our people. They stuck in there and held their own — they deserve all the credit.”
To maintain its commitment to the owner railroads, Transportation has had to adapt due to the pandemic. To allow for social distancing, one dispatcher at a time has been on duty and two trailers have been added to the hump.
Hartwig believes employees’ feedback has been vital and encourages them to let managers know if they need supplies or have ideas.
He’s particularly proud of the displayed teamwork.
“This unfortunate situation brought us closer to our people,” Hartwig said. “I am impressed with the union and the camaraderie they’ve shown. We’ve all come together.”
He also praised Nurse Consultant Laura Freeland, noting that the railroad leaned on her for advice.
Employees have worked together to build a disaster recovery area as a precaution to keep the railroad safe and operational in the event of an outbreak.
Manager of Signal Terminal & Communications Ronald Wanda believes building this area under normal conditions would have taken a month. Instead, employees completed in six days.
While Signal has had to postpone some capital projects due to social distancing practices, the team helped to build the recovery area and continues to help keep the railroad functioning. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, employees have been separated. Maintainers have been limited to having two people in a truck and vehicles have been assigned.
“I am proud of my team for stepping up in a time of uncertainty,” Wanda said. “They have supported each other when it was needed most.”
Wanda praised Local Chairman Jim O’Brien, who was heavily involved with the COVID-19 response, for helping ensure employees stay safe.
Engineering, Track & Structures
Track and facility repairs won’t wait until the pandemic is over, so Director of Engineering Track & Structures Scott Schiemann and his team haven’t slowed down.
As with other departments, social distancing has been a focus, but it’s especially challenging giving the collaborative nature of everything Engineering employees do.
Track & Structures employees have been separated from other departments. This separation extends to those within the teams; staggered shifts for crews — 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. — have been a key part of the response.
Schiemann says job briefings also have been adjusted and efforts to clean facilities and vehicles have been stepped up.
He notes how employees are aware of the essential nature of what they do.
“I’m proud of the whole department and the way we came together,” he said.