Washington Metro safety improvement report not complete, says safety commission

Written by David C. Lester, Managing Editor
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Washington Metrorail Safety Commission says Metro’s plan for safety improvements needs more work.
WMATA

Back in September, RT&S reported on the safety audit that was conducted for the Washington Metro transit system (WMATA) by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. We reported the following:

“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.”

Washington Metro was required to submit a plan to the Commission detailing the agency’s steps to correct items noted in the safety audit. This week, the Washington Post reported that the Commission was not satisfied with the level of detail in Metro’s plan, and has given the agency until Nov. 20 to add specifics to the plan.

The Post report said that the Commission pointed out “that in addition to needing an effective way to measure progress, the plans also needed details on how they would be executed and additional follow-up.”

The Post also reported that there was an incident this summer that the safety commission learned about on Tuesday. A westbound Silver Line train, headed for the Wiehle-Reston East station, rolled at 30 m.p.h. past a flagman who was trying to stop the train because of work crews on the line ahead. Apparently, the operator did not see the flagman, so another employee called the Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) and personnel there ordered the train to stop.

The incident was investigated by the Commission and they found out that the ROCC had made only one “blanket” announcement that work crews were in the area. Bruce Walker, a program specialist working for the Commission, said “That announcement was made 37 minutes before this event, raising questions about the effectiveness of relying on these blanket announcements.”

RT&S will continue to follow and report on this story as warranted.

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