Refreshing words from FRA Administrator Joe Szabo here at the National Mediation Board’s Passenger Railroad Conference in Philadelphia. Joe complimented Amtrak President Boardman for disconnecting manager compensation from injury statistics. Joe noted that while this will result in an increase in reported injuries, it will provide the FRA with the type of accurate information necessary to improve its rail safety programs. It also will help replace management’s "blame the victim" reflex with a focus on analyzing the systemic root causes of injuries.

So a good start, but not nearly enough to avoid FRSA punitive damages. As Judge Berlin recently noted when ordering punitive damages against Amtrak, the cultural change that really counts will be when employees feel free to report injuries and safety concerns without any fear of discipline or retaliation. And so far, there is no evidence that change has occurred.