Q&A with CSX's Dr. Tom Neilson

Dr. NeilsonWhat is CSX doing to protect its workforce from influenza?

CSX is committed to creating a work environment that promotes good health and prevents problems before they arise, including undertaking the necessary steps to prevent the spread of influenza among CSX employees. With a workforce of more than 31,000 employees across our 21,000-mile rail network, it is imperative that we commit ample time and resources to serving employees where they live and work. That’s why we offer on-site flu shots, free of charge, at more than two dozen work locations across the company, in conjunction with health screening events throughout the year. We also work hard to inform employees through our Health & Wellness program, which provides helpful tips about effective hand washing, the importance of getting enough rest, proper cough and sneeze hygiene, and the benefits of using sanitizing wipes on phones, hard surfaces and train controls.

How do those activities benefit CSX’s workforce, CSX’s partners and the general public?

We understand that busy schedules and full workloads can make it challenging to get to the doctor’s office for regular appointments and preventive care. By offering useful information to employees on the job and providing resources for health and wellness, we can help create a healthier, happier and more productive workplace. This creates a domino effect that extends to CSX’s many partners across the network and the neighbors in our communities.

We are a people-driven company that operates 24/7 to serve American consumers and businesses, so the healthier our employees are, the more reliable and dependable we are as a company. Healthy employees contribute to making our valued customers happy, and getting their shipments where they need to be, when they need to be there. Equipped with the information and resources to maintain a healthy lifestyle, every CSX employee can lead by example and become an advocate for good health.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced in protecting a workforce from influenza and ensuring continuity of operations? What are the biggest successes you have had?

The CSX network never sleeps. We have 24/7 operations, which means that it can be difficult to find the right time to immunize and generate awareness for all of our employees—at headquarters and in the field. Overcoming scheduling conflicts and ensuring that all operations continue safely and on time can be a major challenge.

We count the CSX response to the 2009–2010 H1N1 pandemic among one of our biggest successes because it demonstrated our quick response to a pressing need. CSX equipped every employee with fact-based information about the pandemic and provided them with access to helpful resources in the event of an emergency. Because H1N1 began earlier than the usual flu season, we had to act fast to implement what was ultimately a focused and effective employee education effort.

What direction are you taking in making plans for flu seasons down the road?

To extend the reach of CSX’s health and wellness culture beyond our rails, we are making plans to promote flu education to protect families. As part of CDC’s Total Worker Health Initiative, we will take strides to advance and promote health and wellbeing, and to keep employees safe. This approach, which is new for CSX, integrates occupational safety and health protection with health promotion to prevent worker injury and illness. This approach to health and wellness has proven to be highly effective, and we are eager to implement it here at CSX.

While more than 2,000 CSX employees participate in our on-site flu shot program each year, we are hoping to increase employee participation through effective internal communications about the program and informational materials that explain the benefits of flu prevention activities. Our main goal is to send every employee home each day, safe and healthy. And the Total Worker Health Initiative is an important tool to ensure that our employees and their families learn ways to reduce exposure risks both at work and at home that stand in the way of that goal.

What kind of information from CDC is helpful to you in protecting your employees from flu?

CDC is a very important resource when taking on any company-wide health and wellness effort, and we appreciate the ongoing partnership between CSX and CDC. When developing and implementing plans to prevent CSX employees from getting influenza, we rely on CDC for the latest and most accurate information on flu outbreaks and the recommendations of antiviral drugs used to treat those outbreaks. CDC’s free resources, materials and online tools are great sources of information, and provide helpful guidance on how to encourage workforces to take steps to prevent influenza. CSX looks forward to continued collaboration with CDC to advance workplace health and wellness for all of our employees and the communities we serve.