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Posted at 6:55 PM ET, 11/22/2010

Metro's biggest problem: Not putting safety first

By James Potts, Fort Washington

Last week, a task force report sponsored by the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments recommended a significant restructuring of the Metro system governance [“Report: Metro organization is outdated,” Metro, Nov. 18]. The task force cited many deficiencies with the current structure, including the inability of elected officials to adopt a long-term, regional perspective. While I don’t disagree with the report’s recommendations, the safety issues that have caused this appropriate attention cannot wait for the task force recommendations to be evaluated and implemented.

The root cause of the problem is that safety is not considered a core value at Metro. The problem is not a program issue; it’s a cultural one. A core value is a value that is never compromised — in this case the safety of employees and customers. A core value is not the same as a priority. Priorities change as circumstances change; values do not.

Changing the culture starts at the top. Supervisors and management should encourage and recognize upward reporting of safety issues from the people with “boots on the ground.” If an escalator technician cannot return the braking system to factory-specified conditions, he needs to be recognized for refusing to place the escalator back in service. If a bus or train operator sees a safety-compromised condition, he or she should be encouraged to stop the vehicle immediately. Conversely, employees who knowingly violate significant safety policies should be fired.

It is not easy to bring about a change in culture. There will always be a tension regarding adequate funding. But the solution is not to compromise on safety. The solution is to educate the public so that it will accept the appropriate, humane allocation of limited resources.

By James Potts, Fort Washington  | November 22, 2010; 6:55 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Maryland, Metro, transportation  
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Comments

Is this article satire? To notion that the people with "boots" on the ground, you know the actual workers be commended for such things as refusing to put an escalator back in service or refusing to drive a bus for a safety issue is just asking for that worker to be "let go" from their job for some "other" reason such as an all of a sudden "poor performance". Does this individual know the culture needed in America's blue collar work force to survive? (meaning keep your job) This is not some ivory tower study that I am talking about but a real person must contend with day to day.

Posted by: mrlewish | November 22, 2010 9:28 PM | Report abuse

In the name of safety they maintain airliner like distances between trains, esp. pulling into stations. Which infuriates me so how about they concentrate on the escalators and be a little edgier with the trains?

Posted by: ronjaboy | November 23, 2010 6:15 AM | Report abuse

Disagree. I don't see it as a the unwillingness of management to listen to legitimate concerns. After reading the 308 page independent audit and hearing about safely switches dirty and out of adjustment and dirty pits it tells me that Metro workers are not doing the work.

The

Posted by: aschultz00 | November 23, 2010 6:28 AM | Report abuse

Disagree. I don't see it as a the unwillingness of management to listen to legitimate concerns. After reading the 308 page independent audit and hearing about safely switches dirty and out of adjustment and dirty pits it tells me that Metro workers are not doing the work.

When doing maintibance the first thing that happens if the pit is cleaned. Then you clean and adjust switches. Then you clean and adjust brakes. Sounds to me we are not getting past step one.

I work on elevators and escalators for a living. Everytime I ride a Metro unit and hear the noises coming from it, I know the work is not getting done.

Brakes don't plain fail in the numbers that metro is claiming. BUT brakes do get dirty and out of adjustment from lack of maintenance, therefore failing.


Posted by: aschultz00 | November 23, 2010 6:36 AM | Report abuse

~~~an all of a sudden "poor performance". Does this individual know the culture needed in America's blue collar work force to survive? (meaning keep your job) This is not some ivory tower study that I am talking about but a real person must contend with day to day.
Posted by: mrlewish | November 22, 2010 9:28 PM ~~~

And That Is The Problem With The System...It Is Broken. And Not Just At The Metro...

Posted by: bertzel | November 23, 2010 1:57 PM | Report abuse

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