Every day, Union Pacific employees do their part to keep America moving – operating heavy machinery; working in, on and around locomotives; and using their physical and intellectual skills to create a safer, more reliable railroad.
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For the safety of every team member, substance abuse can’t be a part of that equation – that’s why Operation RedBlock volunteers have been visiting Union Pacific crew rooms, team meetings and safety briefings for more than 40 years.
On this national day of recognition, Union Pacific encourages each employee to engage in a five-minute safety conversation about Operation RedBlock (ORB). This ongoing program is designed to educate, intervene and refer workers to appropriate support services to attain healthier, substance-free lifestyles in lieu of disciplinary action.
“Our trained volunteers see the big picture – they are focused on you,” said Matt Schumacher, ORB system peer coordinator-Train, Engine and Yard (TE&Y). “They care about what’s happening in your life and why; they just want to help.”
Yardperson Scott White, based in North Platte, Nebraska, is an 18-year UP employee dedicating his time to the program.
“We try to help people cope with all the challenges they encounter in life,” said White, a six-year ORB volunteer. “Life isn’t easy for anyone. I like being there for my co-workers and providing education.”
ORB has trained thousands of peer mentors helping employees understand underlying issues leading to substance abuse; providing education on related rules and regulation; and preventing employees from coming to work under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
“Ninety-five percent of what we do is education creating awareness,” Schumacher said. “Five percent is identification and intervention connecting peers with the Employee Assistance Program, Peer Support and mark off resources.”
When necessary, volunteers intervene and refer co-workers to support services, as impairment due to alcohol or drug use endangers everyone in the workplace. Health and safety are ORB’s primary priorities.
What began as a nationwide movement in the late 1970s continues to evolve four decades later as the efforts of Operation RedBlock volunteers play a significant role in UP’s overall peer-safety efforts.
Now in its 42nd year, the ORB annual day of awareness emerged as part of a joint effort with CSX to create a unified campaign for Class 1 railroads focusing on prevention, intervention and identification of drug and alcohol abuse rather than discipline.
ORB is an employee-led, company-sponsored and union supported movement to save lives – one railroader at a time.
Union Pacific employees can contact an Operation RedBlock System Coordinator for more information.