PHILADELPHIA — The National Safety Council (NSC) recently presented Gary Catapano, FirstGroup America's (FGA) senior vice president of safety, with its 2011 Distinguished Service to Safety Award. 

Officials said the award is the highest NSC honor given to an individual safety professional, and it recognizes outstanding service to the field of safety and health. Five individuals received the award.

Catapano was selected because of his work in the area of improving transportation on a national basis, officials said.

"I am pleased to accept this noble honor from the National Safety Council," Catapano said. "Safety is at the core of everything we do, and the safety and security of our passengers is a tremendous responsibility that we take very seriously. As an industry leader in transportation, FGA has been a pioneer when it comes to developing, designing and implementing safety training and technology, and I am proud to be a driving force in this effort."

Catapano has worked for nearly two decades as a transportation safety professional. In addition to serving as senior vice president of safety for FGA/First Student, Catapano chairs the FGA Safety Council, which provides a safety review function for all FGA divisions, including First Transit, First Services and Greyhound.

Catapano is the current chair of the NSC Transportation Safety Division and a member of its board of delegates. He is also a member of the National School Transportation Association, and he chairs its Safety and Security Committee.

Moreover, Catapano holds a CDL and is a defensive driving instructor and a New York state-certified school bus driver instructor. He is also an OSHA outreach trainer and has special training in incident analysis and collision investigation.

The Distinguished Service to Safety Award was presented at the opening session of NSC's Congress & Expo in the fall.