Report: Metro ‘puts personnel at risk of serious injury or death’ after agency keeps power on third rail in active work zone

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
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The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission says Washington Metro is putting its workers in danger.
DC Metro

Washington, D.C., Metro continues to put workers in life-threatening situations.

This is according to a report from the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission that points out during work that involves shutting off the electrified third rail Metro is not following the proper protocol to keep workers safe. The report says Metro is, “continuing to put its personnel at risk of serious injury or death.”

The report takes it a step further, stating, “elements of Metrorail have a culture that accepts noncompliance with written operational rules, instructions, and manuals.”

The Commission is ordering Metro to limit the number of simultaneous track repairs in the future that require shutting power down.

Back on April 26 a crew was working near the College Park station when the power was restored in a work zone while the workers were still on the roadway. The person in charge gave Metro’s Power Desk the green light to restore power to the third rail. The worker in charge did not notify the rail traffic controller of the error.

The newly configured Power Desk launched in March and is supposed to have protection against improper power restoration. However, Power Desk personnel can act independently outside of the established safety process.

The report points out that three times in the month of May alone procedures were not followed by workers in multiple departments, which led to powered-up third rails in work zones where workers were still present.

The Commission says Power Desk controllers are not following procedures because it results in a quicker process.

“Without cultural change, no amount of training will be sufficient,” says the report. “For designed checks and balances to be effective, the culture must respect these redundancies as enhancing safety, not view them as extraneous time consumers.”

The Commission believes the Power Desk is not staffed with enough people, and notes in its report the worker that turned the power back on during the April 26 incident was more than 10 hours into a 12-hour shift for the sixth day in a row.

Metro says it took immediate actions to assure procedural compliance during the April 26 mishap and “shares the desire to address safety issues rapidly and conclusively.”

Read more articles on track maintenance.

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