ASLRRA 2021 Safety Person of the Year:
George Johnson, Jr.
The American Shortline Railroad Association’s Safety Person of the Year award recognizes a short line and regional railroad employee who has demonstrated outstanding safety achievement through visible promotion of safety programs and initiatives, as well as leadership by example. In addition, the individual must contribute off-duty time to activities promoting community safety and involvement in social service.
George Johnson’s efforts have contributed to thirty-nine years (and counting!) of injury free service at the Golden Triangle Railroad (GTRA). He prioritizes addressing potential safety hazards, and fellow employees take note of his consistent, focused situational awareness.
“You have to fight complacency every minute – just because we’ve always executed a move or a procedure a certain way without a safety threat doesn’t mean that the next time it could be different,” Johnson has stated.
Johnson’s mission for his company and community is to educate and encourage others to stay adaptable and prepared for working safely in the rail industry. At every level of his career, George has trained new rail service employees in safety and operational expectations. Upon becoming Designated Supervisor of Locomotive Engineers more than 15 years ago he formally assumed responsibility for training and certification of new and previously certified locomotive engineers.
Johnson serves as chairman for of GTRA’s local safety committee and led the implementation of many new initiatives at the company including the Federal Railroad Administration’s new power brake rules and the implementation and maintenance of the GTRA 5S program (a system of organizing spaces so work can be performed efficiently, effectively, and safely), serves as the senior on the-job train-the-trainer, and is GTRA’s liaison with key customer International Paper’s Safety Committee.
“George’s active focus on safety has led to a 39-year career of incident-free service, professional excellence, and compelling safety leadership in the railroad industry,” said John E. Fenton, CEO of Patriot Rail. “George believes in rules because rules keep railroaders alive. He carries this approach into his life outside the cab, and that is why George is such an effective teacher, leader and partner.”
Johnson gives back to his community as well. He is a 25-year volunteer member for the local Operation Lifesaver chapter, and volunteers in his local church, performing wellness checks for church members and serving as a mentor to children and young adults.