D.C. Transit Chief Promises Worker Safety Plan

Billing it as the "most comprehensive safety overhaul in the transit authority's history," the recently appointed general manager of the Washington (D.C.) Metropolitan Area Transit Authority – known as Metro – said he plans to launch a major initiative that will focus on improving safety for Metro's 10,000 employees.

Metro General Manager John Catoe's new measure was prompted by three accidents more than a year ago in which four track workers were killed and a train derailment earlier this month that injured 20 passengers.

"I believe Metro is a safe system, but we have to be No. 1 in safety because one accident is one too many," said Catoe, who established a similar plan for the transit system in Los Angeles. "To get there, we need a greater emphasis on safety – from employees and our customers."

"Safety, Safety, Safety"

According to Catoe, the goal of the safety plan is to make Metro the safest transit agency in the country.

Within 30 days, Metro intends to hire a contractor to conduct a thorough analysis of safety measures already in place, identify areas that need improvement, generate solutions in weak areas, initiate new safety measures and create a new safety training program for supervisors.

According to Catoe, the safety enhancements will augment Metro's existing safety program and place a greater emphasis on system safety for customers and employees.

"Safety is the responsibility of every employee and you will hear this from every employee," Catoe said. "Safety. Safety. Safety. It's not just a slogan. It's part of our corporate value system and is a key element of our service."

Catoe Has a Track Record

Catoe, who was sworn in to the position of Metro general manager on Jan. 25, has a track record of improving safety in metropolitan transit systems.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's spokesperson Dave Sotero told OccupationalHazards.com that when Catoe was the deputy chief executive there for 5 years, "worker injuries were reduced by 61 percent and worker compensation claims were reduced by 50 percent during the same time frame."

Metro Aims to Cut Comp Costs, Lost-Time Injuries

Though specifics of the plan have not been established, elements of the plan are likely to include:

  • Increasing the authority of Metro's safety office. Safety officers will have the ability to stop an action if they deem it unsafe.
  • Placing more responsibility and accountability on supervisors.
  • Initiating a comprehensive training program for supervisors.
  • Conducting an aggressive public outreach campaign about system safety.

The comprehensive safety program also aims to generate cost savings for Metro through reduced time lost by injured employees, fewer workers' compensation claims and increased productivity. Metro expects to begin to realize savings after 6 months.

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