Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


Ernesto Escobedo


Operational testing of railroad trainmen on federal government safety rules is a daily occurrence on every railroad in the United States. This constant testing and resulting discipline distracts trainmen from the task at hand, causing a loss of focus which could lead to injury or accidents. Using the social construction framework, this research sought to gain an understanding of trainmen's perception on how operational testing impacts their workplace safety, as well as how they perceive the U.S. federal government influences regulation and discipline. This phenomenological study investigated a segment of railroad employees, the trainmen, because they are operationally tested more than other employees. A representative sample of trainmen (n = 20), managers (n = 7), retirees (n = 4), and U.S. federal government officials (n = 4) who oversee railroad safety, were interviewed using a semistructured interview protocol. The transcribed interviews were analyzed for patterns and trends of safety and testing outcomes. The software analysis provided frequencies of qualitative features in the participants' responses such as stressor words and fear of discipline. Government reports regarding incident rates across U.S. railroads demonstrated that private rail companies are about equal in their incident rates. Considering incidents occur equally, the interviewees indicated that some companies test more frequently than others. This study concluded that excessive operational testing does not positively impact safety nor reduce incidents, but creates a potential for distraction among trainmen. By taking the opinion of employees into consideration, railway managers can create a safer work environment, as well as a more coherent and less stressful workplace for their employees.