SLSI picks Cotton for key post

Written by William Vantuono, editor-in-chief, Railway Age
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Sam Cotton, Short Line Safety Institute. | Photo courtesy of ASLRRA

The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) has named Sam Cotton as senior manager, safety and operations.

Cotton replaces Mike Long, who recently accepted a position with the Federal Railroad Administration.

Cotton will be responsible for management of SLSI’s Safety Culture Assessment program, a “voluntary, non-punitive and confidential five-to-ten-day onsite process with a rigorous methodology that includes an online survey of staff, discussions with management, and observations of a railroad’s daily practices.”

Cotton brings more than 18 years of railroad safety operations experience to SLSI, having spent 12 years in law enforcement, followed by a second career in railroading, where he held a variety of operations roles with OmniTRAX, including conductor, engineer, trainmaster, Superintendent of Operations and General Manager.

He also served on the OmniTRAX Safety Audit Team and audited multiple railroads across the U.S. and Canada. In 2009, he was named ASLRRA Safety Person of the Year. The Panhandle Northern, one of the OmniTRAX properties Cotton was responsible for, was named an ASLRRA Most Improved Railroad.

Cotton has served the SLSI as a Safety Culture Assessor since 2015, and for the past two years as a Team Lead. As one of the original Safety Culture Assessors during the SLI’s Pilot Program, Cotton helped develop and test the protocols and processes that are in place today.

“Sam has been a go-to resource for our entire Safety Assessor team, conducting all aspects of the Assessment process, providing feedback to improve the program and speaking on behalf of the SLSI at national and regional meetings,” said Tom Murta, executive director, Short Line Safety Institute. “His passion for the process, and the impact of a Safety Culture Assessment on a railroad, is evident to all who have worked with him.”

SLSI Assessment tools review the ten core elements of a strong safety culture, as adopted by the DOT Safety Council. At the end of the Assessment, best practices from the railroad industry, and tools to address any opportunity areas are made available to the railroad.

The Short Line Safety Institute is a non-profit corporation that conducts safety culture assessments as an educational, training and research source for short line and regional railroads.

SLSI says it “will heighten the intensity of safety culture focus, and involve short line and regional railroads and their management by combining ongoing assessments, feedback, communication, and recommended improvements and best practices. SLSI provides a variety of educational programming, from in-person interactive workshops to online webinars to helpful tips for Safety Briefings.”

Categories: Freight, Regulatory, Safety/Training, Shortline/Regional, Yards & Terminals
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