The Los Angeles Basin is a busy railroad corridor, but no matter how busy it gets, a Union Pacific Engineering team puts safety first.

Los Nietos District Maintenance of Way team members – the railroaders who continuously inspect the condition of rail, ties, signals and ballast to ensure the railway remains clear and navigable – celebrated 20 years reportable injury-free in early September.

The group handles a high-traffic stretch of track dotted with rail yards from East Los Angeles through Orange County to the ports of Long Beach, California, keeping the intermodal traffic rolling smoothly.

Team members celebrating 20 years reportable injury free (left to right): Levi Cephas, truck driver; John Romo, machine operator; Alejandro Ramirez, track foreperson; Nathan Munoz, manager-Track Maintenance; Ron Whitelow, truck driver; David Palmer, track supervisor; Rolando Ochoa, machine operator; Julio Garcia, track supervisor; Jesse Mora, track supervisor; Ivan Fuentes, track supervisor; and Steve Barboza, specialized gang foreperson.

Working in a densely populated area, Nathan Munoz, manager-Track Maintenance, said his 14-member team remains a model of consistency, with a track record of effective communication and attention to detail.

“Every day, we discuss how to handle the different outside-of-railroading challenges such as automotive traffic and numerous pedestrians,” said Munoz, a local who has led the team for two years. “We know the territory well.”

A handful of the team members have been there for the entire 20-year safety record, and the rest of the team builds off their example, Munoz said. This collaborative approach of older and newer employees is a key reason behind their impressive safety record.

“They’re the core group who leads the way for our newer members,” he said, noting that includes two members with just under a year of experience, plus many more in the five- to 10-year range.

“It’s a tight-knit group that’s been together for a long time,” Munoz said.