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March 26, 2014
Railroad commits to safety changes in wake of multiple accidents

A late 2013 train crash in the Bronx killed four people and injured 70 others. The accident was one of several that have plagued Metro-North Commuter Railroad, an agency of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The federal government recently issued a report on the problems, and the railroad has announced a 100-day plan to address them.

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The issues, including leadership and safety culture, affect all employers, not just those in the transportation industry. Keep reading for valuable insights.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has completed a comprehensive safety assessment of Metro-North, which serves commuters in New York and Connecticut.

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx noted that while efficiency and on-time performance are important, they cannot come before safety. There were four fatal incidents in 2013. And a Metro-North employee was killed earlier this month, just days after the railroad announced new safety initiatives.

FRA instructed the railroad to overhaul its safety culture, starting with a mandate that senior leadership “put safety front and center and communicate and implement that priority throughout the organization.” The railroad was also instructed to address specific recommendations involving:

  • Track safety standards,
  • Railroad operating rules,
  • Certification requirements for locomotive engineers and conductors,
  • Safety training for roadway workers and employees who maintain rolling stock,
  • Train control systems, and
  • Fatigue management.

Employer promises safety turnaround; admits change takes time

In view of the federal report and its own inquiry, Metro-North announced a plan earlier this month to rebuild a culture of safety at the railroad. The first step was agreeing to a new top-level chief safety officer position.

Other actions include:

  • Establish a blue ribbon panel on safety with members including national railroad and transportation experts.
  • Recreate the safety department with the sole focus on developing, implementing, and enforcing safety policy and initiatives.
  • Develop a new corporate safety policy.
  • Overhaul the existing safety program.
  • Conduct quarterly safety stand-downs that involve all employees in conversations about safety.
  • Review and improve programs to train and test employees on their knowledge of safe operations.
  • Establish a confidential close-call reporting system.
  • Ensure independent, third party review of plans for critical maintenance projects to minimize risk.
  • Establish a working group to identify and implement a fix for malfunctioning grade crossings.

Said MTA chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast, “The safety of our customers and employees is unquestionably the top priority for the MTA, and these steps will make sure this emphasis on safety is built into the operations of every MTA agency.”



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