Safety at the Butte, Anaconda & Pacific Railway
At Patriot Rail & Ports, safety is our foundational theme. It is a value that is truly at the core of everything we do. The pursuit of safety inspires our company culture throughout the organization. It is a focus for everyone, from our experienced top-level executives to our entry-level employees on their first day on the job.
Building a culture of safety takes commitment and action. It takes both personal accountability and a willingness to hold co-workers accountable. It takes an environment where every individual is empowered to speak up about safety concerns, and anyone can suggest corrective action.
Building Team Culture
The Butte, Anaconda & Pacific (BAP) Railway team keeps safety at the forefront of everything they do. Facing wildlife and extreme temperatures along with typical railroad hazards, the team has gone more than 1200 days without an accident or injury.
Our operations manager at the BAP, Matt Mavrinac, sets the standard, and his team follows. Excellent training and modeling safe behavior are two ways that Matt delivers the safety message. “The biggest thing,” Matt says, “is looking out for one another.”
“I like to see a guy come into work in the morning and go home at night with all their fingers, arms, legs, no injuries,” he continues. Matt knows things can happen quickly on the railroad, and the only way to avoid injuries is to play by the rules.
A Consistent Safety Record
The best way to ensure everyone plays by the rules is to communicate with them often. Have a plan, know the plan, execute the plan, then debrief on the plan. Like a train, everyone must be pulling in the same direction.
Much of the BAP’s safety record can be attributed to Matt’s presence with the crew. He estimates he is on the ground working with his team 90-95% of the time. As the manager, he has many responsibilities, but he places none of those above, keeping his team safe in the spirit of the Patriot’s mission. Having Matt out leading work heightens our BAP team’s focus. It also allows him to demonstrate safe behavior and immediately correct anything that may veer from standard practice.
Montana’s Unpredictable Wildlife
While railcars are somewhat predictable, wildlife is not. The BAP’s unique setting in the picturesque Montana wilderness creates an opportunity for unique safety concerns. Animals, including deer, moose, and bears, occasionally wander into the rail yard.
It is not uncommon to be doing track repairs within feet of bear tracks. Matt recalls one repair that took place within a mile of elk remains left by a mountain lion. Normal for Montana residents and normal for everyone else are two different things. When recounting these stories, Matt says casually, “not only do we have to watch out for the safety of people and whatnot, we have to keep our heads on a swivel for wildlife too.”
Keeping heads on a swivel is a common theme. When asked about the most dangerous part of the job for Matt and our BAP team, he replied, “Just making sure everybody’s in the clear and honors moving equipment. You have to keep your head on a swivel, looking in every direction.”
“Anything can happen,” he continues, “it can happen at a moment’s notice, so you have to look out for each other.”
Safely Leading The Team
As our BAP team’s 1,200 plus day safety streak indicates, these dedicated rail workers do an exceptional job of staying aware and having each other’s backs. Be it moving equipment, making sure a cut of cars is in the clear, or even a bear, our team is prepared and operates with a safety-first mentality.
Matt demonstrates that the Patriot believes that leading people is a core competency and that proper safety must be leadership-driven and employee-based. Safety is more than a set of rules to be followed. It is an internal commitment by every team member to do the right thing and expect the same from their colleagues.
Safety is paramount at Patriot Rail & Ports. As a team, we are continually building a culture of safety through deliberate leadership focus, commitment, and action from the top down.