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Managing Safety Through Responsible Care

Jay Grove is the Environmental Health, Safety and Security Director for GATX Rail, a lessor of rail cars. In this interview, Grove explains how GATX Rail controls safety hazards at its facilities, complies with regulations and standards and maintains its safety record.

Please provide a brief overview of GATX Rail and of your position as Environmental Health, Safety and Security Director.

GATX Rail is one of the leading lessors of rail cars in the world. We lease 150,00 tank and special freight cars, and we perform work to maintain those assets in good operating condition. We also have a number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-mandated programs that address such areas as fall protection, confined spaces, respiratory protection, lockout/tagout, hearing conservation, HAZWOPER and others.

GATX Rail has over 700 employees at a number of facilities located throughout North America. As the Director of Environmental Health, Safety and Security for GATX Rail, I am responsible for ensuring that GATX has the proper procedures and policies to comply with all environmental and safety regulations.

Workers in GATX Rail’s rail car repair shops routinely perform painting, blasting and welding activities, during which time they can encounter confined space hazards, falls and respiratory exposures. In your role, how do you help to protect workers from such hazards? What kinds of personal protective equipment (PPE) do these workers wear?

We provide extensive training, including orientation, on-the-job training, annual classroom and computer-based training programs and toolbox training sessions. Employee PPE, such as chemical-protective suits, hardhats, steel-toed boots and gloves are required for all employees. Employees receive respirator fit-tests, and we ensure that their respiratory equipment is clean and in good working condition.

How do you ensure that GATX Rail’s facilities worldwide comply with OSHA regulations or with international safety standards?

We ensure compliance through auditing.

GATX Rail is a partner in the American Chemistry Council’s (ACC) Responsible Care Partnership Program. What are the terms of this partnership, and how has a Responsible Care approach helped to reduce occupational injuries and accidents among GATX Rail employees?

The terms of partnership are relatively straightforward. Companies must express and demonstrate a commitment to the principles of Responsible Care. Initiation into the program begins with an interview by an ACC representative. If the membership committee believes that the company is properly committed, they are accepted as a Partner into the program, and they have three years to implement a set of technical standards in order to become certified.

We are well on our way to completing the technical standards, and we plan to proceed with our verification audit in 2007. Membership in the Responsible Care Program requires a commitment to continual improvement in environmental, health and safety performance. In order to comply with the technical specifications of the program, we have created a number of new policies and procedures, which we believe will help drive continual improvement.

GATX Rail’s health and safety department measures incident rates, workers’ compensation losses and training to determine ways to improve its employee safety record. What methodology does the health and safety department use to measure these factors?

For work-related injuries and illnesses, GATX uses the standard OSHA formula to measure incident rates. For workers’ compensation, we look at the total cost of claims in both paid and reserved dollars.

As Environmental Health, Safety and Security Director, what do you believe is the most challenging hazard to control among all GATX Rail employees? Why?

I believe the most challenging hazard our employees face is confined space entry, as our workers frequently perform welding and cutting activities inside tank cars. Hot work and fall protection also present major workplace hazards at our facilities.

GATX Rail recently completed a verification audit in Canada. What was the outcome of this audit, and how will it impact the company’s safety record?

There were a few minor findings, which we addressed, and we expect to hear back from the Canadian Chemical Producers Association shortly. It will not have any significant impact on our safety record.

What is GATX’s TankTrainer program, and how has it helped to increase safety and regulatory compliance among GATX’s customers?

We modified an old tank car by installing many different valves and fittings. We also cut a door into the tank car so that visitors can easily walk inside the car to see how the different valves, fittings and appliances appear from the perspective of the interior of the car. We use this program as an educational tool to help promote safety awareness among our customers. In addition to our customers, many firefighters and other emergency responders have participated in our TankTrainer program.

What methods does GATX Rail use to reduce waste and emissions?

When it comes to waste and emissions, we always ensure that we operate with our permit limits.

As far as waste minimization is concerned, we try to minimize our solvent usage, and we try to use our expired shelf-life paint for facility maintenance whenever possible instead of disposing of it.

Since GATX carries about 900 different commodities in its fleet, we try to broker commodities so that they can be reused. If you can find a home for the product, that is even better.

What is GATX Rail’s view of safety, health and environmental (SH&E) investment?

We place the utmost importance in protecting our workers, the surrounding communities and the environment. We conduct our operations with the primary focus of protecting the safety of our employees. If these activities happen to save money, then that is a secondary benefit.


Jay Grove is the Director of Environmental Health and Safety for GATX Rail, and he has over 30 years of experience in the petroleum refining, hazardous waste and rail transportation industries. Grove also manages the Responsible Care Program for GATX Rail.

He holds a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota.