Safety and OSHA News

After multi-fatality, railroad to monitor engineer alertness

Following a crash that killed four people and injured 70 last year, the Metro-North Railroad that provides service between New York City and Connecticut has released its 100-day action plan to, among other things, improve its safety performance. 

Two of the four main areas of focus in the plan are “Promoting a Culture of Safety” and “Adopting Concrete Safety Enhancements.”

These initiatives are part of Metro-North’s plan to improve its safety culture:

  • Create a data analysis unit to support decision making, identify negative trends and improve positive trends
  • Create an incident investigation unit to look into root causes of incidents and monitor corrective actions
  • Develop a new corporate safety policy clearly articulating the importance of safety
  • Develop a training program for all employees on Metro-North’s safety program
  • Conduct safety stand downs every quarter to discuss safety with employees at all levels
  • Test employees on their application and knowledge of operating safely, and
  • Set up a confidential close call reporting system to allow employees to anonymously report safety concerns.

As part of Metro-North’s new concrete safety enhancements, the railroad plans to install cameras in train cabs to more closely monitor engineers. It will also install “alerter” devices that are designed to ensure that engineers remain responsive while on duty.

Documents released by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said William Rockefeller, the engineer on the train that crashed in December 2013, had severe sleep apnea. He experienced 52.5 to 67.5 episodes per hour of airflow disruption for at least 10 seconds while sleeping. More than 30 episodes per hour is considered severe. Normal is fewer than five per hour.

Rockefeller said he felt “dazed” on the day of the wreck.

The NTSB’s final report on this crash has yet to be released.

A report from the Federal Railroad Administration said on-time performance at Metro-North trumped safety. The FRA said the railroad suffered from a “deficient safety culture” that emphasized on-time performance over protecting workers and riders.

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