Following 2015 Metro Accident: Little Progress on Safety Recommendations

 

A recent article in the Washington Post summarizes the lack of urgency by WMATA to address and remedy safety concerns that continue with Metro operations and endanger passengers.

After the January, 2015 Metro smoke incident, which killed one passenger and left many others permanently injured, federal investigators identified serious safety violations. During its May, 2020 meeting, Washington Metro Safety Commission provided specific recommendations to address safety concerns. The commission noted a lack of urgency to adopt its recommendations, in spite of warnings that the December, 2015 tragedy could be repeated. For many of the problems cited in the 2015 investigation, little or no progress has been made to address the most important issues. Listed below some of the details from the findings:

  • “Rail controllers must be provided proper, complete and recurring training on the use of emergency ventilation fans, and they must be provided immediate access to and familiarization with the vent fan playbook that was called for by the National Transportation Safety Board after the L’Enfant Plaza incident.
  • Rail operations control center managers and leadership must be prohibited from remotely manipulating consoles in the control center without coordinating with the controllers and verify by periodic audit, computer-generated reports, or both, that uncoordinated remote manipulation has ceased.
  • Additional protections must be instituted to ensure that third-rail power is not restored prematurely, including but not limited to ensuring that managers and leadership permit controllers to follow all power restoration checklists and procedures to be certain power is restored only when it is safe to do so. These additional protections must include providing an independent approval from an appropriately qualified employee outside of the Office of Rail Transportation so that safe power restoration is always placed ahead of service metrics, such as on-time performance.”

In addition to the 2009 and 2015 Metro accidents that caused tragedy and death, Metro continues to have a number of near-miss incidents. Until there is real progress in adopting ongoing training, safety-rule certification and checklists for emergencies, passenger safety will continue to be a worry.

Author: Sal Zambri, Senior Partner and Founding Member of Regan Zambri Long PLLC. He can be reached at 202-822-1899 or szambri@reganfirm.com