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Passenger-Rail Perspective: WMATA's Regional Safety Plan


By Lisa Farbstein, WMATA office of media relations

A new way of looking at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority's rail yards, maintenance facilities, and other operational sites aims to make the 10,000-employee authority a safer place to work and a safer way to travel for its 600,000 daily rail customers.

Employees service 770 rail cars, 83 Metrorail stations and work in rail yards, maintenance facilities, and other sites that keep transit moving in and around the nation's capital. Under a newly organized structure, the Metro system is divided into 10 regions, each with a safety officer assigned to administer a systematic approach in the implementation of safety programs, initiatives, and the System Safety Program Plan.

Each region is staffed with a safety officer who works in partnership with operating managers and supervisors to identify and resolve safety/health hazards; participate in internal safety audits; and oversee implementation of the Safety Facility Improvement Plans and safety initiatives.

"Regional safety officers are the main contacts for safety issues and concerns in our regions, and they are allowing our Safety Office to be proactive in identifying and solving problems at the local and regional levels, as well as reinforcing safety rules and regulatory compliance," says Fred Goodine, the chief safety officer for Metro. "We are the first transit agency to take a decentralized approach with our regional safety field offices."

Regional safety officers visit each of the facilities within their region at least three times a month to establish and participate in operations and maintenance safety committees; audit the safety facility improvement plans, maintain status sheets to evaluate safety-related trends, and perform typical duties of a safety officer.

"It is critical to the success of this decentralized approach that our safety officers reside within the region they oversee," Goodine explains. "Working along side the operating manager helps identify and resolve safety issues."

"The bottom line is that we're not throwing darts and seeing where they land, but we are being very systematic," says Ruth O'Hara, acting manager of occupational safety and training, who oversees the regional safety offices.

Employees report that they no longer feel as though they have to wait for a safety officer to identify and remove a hazard, she adds. Now they’re able to identify concerns themselves and feel empowered to make the necessary changes.

"Employee buy-in is a big factor," says O’Hara. "And when the regional safety officers show up unannounced and see employees wearing their personal protective equipment, it becomes obvious that the employees are taking safety seriously."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/1/2002