Norfolk Southern, the operator of the freight train carrying toxic chemicals that derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, nearly a year ago, has agreed to participate in a federal program that allows employees to report safety issues confidentially, the company and federal officials announced on Monday.
In the aftermath of the derailment, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg called on Norfolk Southern and the nation’s other major freight railroads to join the program, one of a series of steps he urged them to take to improve safety.
The railroads committed in March to participating, but in the months that followed, they pushed for changes to the program to address concerns about how it functions. None of the largest freight rail companies, known as Class I railroads, had officially agreed to join until the announcement on Monday.
Norfolk Southern’s participation in the program, known as the Confidential Close Call Reporting System, or C3RS, will be limited in scope. The railroad will carry out a one-year pilot program that will apply to about 1,000 employees in Atlanta; Elkhart, Ind.; and Roanoke, Va., who are members of two unions, a small fraction of the company’s work force of roughly 20,000 people.