NTSB: Accidents show need for new safety culture perspective

Posted on January 28, 2011

Accident investigations highlight the need for a new perspective on safety culture, record-keeping and aging infrastructure, said National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman, at a speech during the Transportation Research Board conference.

During her presentation, Hersman discussed four investigations across all modes of transportation. She highlighted several accidents that claimed the lives of dozens and encouraged attendees to embrace lessons learned to prevent future accidents.

"If you're going to build a transportation project that's going to stand for decades, the foundation of future operating decisions may well be based on the original documentation. Make sure your records stand the test of time," Hersman said.

Hersman also emphasized the need for establishing a positive safety culture across all modes of transportation. She noted that four years before the fatal transit train collision on Washington's Metro system, a precursor incident led to the development of a test to detect the component failure involved in the 2009 tragedy. However, Metro failed to ensure that the new procedures were adopted and understood by their maintenance crews.

During her speech, Hersman recognized the demands presented by aging infrastructure. "We believe — and Americans have the right to assume — that our infrastructure is built to last. And indeed it does last. We definitely got the extended warranty on some of those landmark projects. Unfortunately at the rate we're going we really needed the lifetime guarantee," she said.

Concluding, Chairman Hersman commended the work of former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey and former House Committee Chairman James Oberstar, who were honored at the conference for their life-long work in transportation safety. "Let's build on their work by creating a culture of safety, making sure that aging infrastructure is not exempted from safety requirements, and keeping records not just for your successor, but for your successor's successor," Hersman said.



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