Lessons not learned: WMATA misinterprets FTA safety program and blames workers
In December, WMATA began issuing new circulars to employees called Lessons Learned. The purpose of Lessons Learned is to describe safety issues that have occurred as well as the steps being taken to prevent future occurrence. Three have been issued thus far, and GGW received copies from one of the recipients.
While well-intentioned, the Lessons Learned program illuminates the struggle WMATA management is having with their own employees. The circulars make clear that management really learns the same single lesson after every incident: their employees don't follow rules.
WMATA is doing these Lessons Learned circulars because the FTA told them to in their audit. But WMATA is missing the point of the FTA program.
The FTA explains the Lessons Learned program as follows in their audit:
While such programs are not generally considered a part of training, they can be of exceptional value in educating management. Lessons Learned programs address the agency's response to problems that have occurred and been dealt with in the recent past. The salient issues are identified and managers and other other personnel are encouraged to critically review the way the agency responded.In other words, the lessons learned from causal analyses of incidents are lessons for management. That's because the root causes of safety and performance lapses, as most texts on safety and quality management make clear, "are underlying, are reasonably identifiable, can be controlled by management and allow for generation of recommendations."
In announcing the program to WMATA staff via email, however, GM Sarles already concludes that the relevant lessons are not for management but for front-line workers.
I want to call your attention to the new circulars being issued by SAFE called Lessons Learned. These brief handouts clearly describe safety issues that have arisen on our system or other systems and point out how to prevent recurrences. The circulars remind us of the importance of safe work practices, as well as the need for unwavering attention to safety rules and regulations.We will look at specific Lessons Learned circulars in future posts. The first Lessons Learned circular that we will look at concerns the removal of a barrier from an escalator at Tenleytown that had 3 steps removed for maintenance.
At the end of the day, learning from others' experiences can help prevent injuries and save lives. I applaud the work of SAFE and our labor partners to provide this information to all employees and recommend that everyone read the first three circulars that have been issued http://metroweb/safety/lessons_learned/default.aspx.
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