In 2009, a Metro train crashed and killed nine people. In 2015, there was a major smoke problem that killed one passenger and left many injured. Although they happened years ago, these are just two of the incidents that reflect a weak safety culture that still exists in the agency today according to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission, and reported in the Washington Post.
The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission was created by Congress in 2017 to oversee the agency and had the power to direct agency officials to make any changes the commission saw fit.
When the commission reviewed the operations of the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC), it found, as reported in the Post, “‘a toxic workplace'” “where employees are bullied, racially and sexually harassed, and told by managers to ignore authorities and operating procedures.”
The review of the ROCC also found that workers were overworked and undertrained, and dealt with threats, fear, and instructions from managers that conflicted with each other. The audit summarized the ROCC problems by pointing out that a number of safety risks are inherent in this culture, which jeopardize the safety of those who use Metrorail.
The reaction to the audit by Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld was that the agency planned a “thorough analysis” of the audit’s findings. Wiedefeld went on to say that “Every report represents certain third-hand [information] based on an interview of someone else. It’s just sort of one-sided. I need both sides and I need to understand the context of some of those things that are put in that report. And you need to do that by talking to the individuals. So we will do that. I think that’s fair.”
“Wiedefeld has moved heaven and earth to try to change the culture at Metro and make safety number one” Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-VA.) said. He added “I think he inherited, and continues to have to deal with, a number of managers and personnel who are not with the program.”
A complete copy of the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission report can be found here.