Metro audit portrays isolated safety management
A new audit of Metro's safety found that operational departments still need to be more deeply involved enough in safety, and that safety officials need to focus more on small incidents in addition to larger ones.
This audit, conducted by the Tri-State Oversight Committee and released this week, takes a closer look at Metro safety practices than before. While the FTA's audit, released in March, revealed systemic concerns such as the lack of a Hazard Management System, the nearly 300-page TOC audit reveals the specific deficiencies of such systems.
Metro riders should take some comfort that this in-depth audit was conducted and made public. The Board, media and public should make sure that each "deficiency" and "area of concern" revealed by the audit is addressed.
The TOC audit portrays the safety management within Metro (known as SAFE for System Safety and Environmental Management) as an island, isolated from the departments whose processes and procedures SAFE is charged with continuously improving.
For example, SAFE's manual of operating procedures (Safety System Program Plan, or SSPP) apparently bears little relation to what workers actually do, because other departments aren't included in writing or revising these procedures.
p 64. Area of Concern 4-1. Non-SAFE departments and the ELT are not engaged in updates to the SSPP. WMATA did not solicit the review and comments of the other WMATA departments to which the SSPP applies, per the lessons learned from the December 2009 Internal Safety Audit conducted by APTA. Thus, the descriptions provided within each element of the SSPP do not fully represent the processes and documentation used by the non-SAFE departments in implementing the SSPP.
The island move further from the shore when hazard analysis is conducted, as SAFE ignores reports of hazards from most sources.
p 78. Area of Concern 6-6. Too few sources provide input regarding hazardous conditions. Primary input of hazardous conditions to SAFE comes from the OCC [Operations Control Center]. SAFE needs to expand the sources of hazardous condition reporting to include inspections, audits, investigations, observations. hotlines, etc.
This is very consistent with the complaint amongst Metro workers that the organization won't do anything about reported safety hazards.
SAFE is primarily reacting to major accidents, not getting out ahead of the next accident. This reactive position is only hardened by the enormous pressure to respond to NTSB recommendations, all of which are reactive preventions of the causes of previous major accidents. TOC criticizes this reactive posture, as have I on multiple occasions.
p 79. Area of Concern 6-9. Hazard management does not include smaller incidents. The trending and analysis of multiple, less serious, incidents or near misses is not currently being accomplished.
Some portion of these issues are being addressed by Metro, with new hires and training in SAFE, all of which are mentioned by TOC.
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