December 2, 2013

Industry peers recognize OCTA's best practices

A first-time review by professional peers in the transportation industry found that the Orange County (Calif.) Transportation Authority (OCTA) has established several industry best practices when it comes to the agency’s work in health, safety and environmental compliance.

Each year, OCTA undergoes an audit of its health and safety practices to ensure that the agency complies with all regulations and creates the safest atmosphere for its passengers and employees. When CEO Darrell Johnson assumed leadership of the agency earlier this year, he decided to take that a step further, requesting that for the first time OCTA undergo a peer review led by the American Public Transportation Association as part of his first 100 days plan.

Undergoing such a review, Johnson said, would ensure that OCTA could further improve its already successful programs. A panel of industry experts with a combined experience of more than 100 years was assembled, including health and safety professionals from Sacramento, Denver and Toronto.

For three days in June, they reviewed OCTA’s health, safety and environmental compliance written programs and policies, toured all OCTA bases, conducted face-to-face interviews with all levels of staff and spoke to OCTA contractors.

The results of the review were presented to OCTA’s board of directors at its November meeting.

The review applauded OCTA for setting several industry “best practices,” including:

  • Safety Captain Committees – In which coach operators, mechanics, technicians and administrative staff can actively discuss safety throughout the operation and express opinions about goals and potential improvements.
  • CEO Inspections – Johnson takes part in regular inspections, not just receiving a report but actively participating and touring OCTA sites to ensure program success.
  • On-board Operator Evaluations – Periodic evaluations of coach operators to review their driving behaviors and techniques and suggest improvement when needed.

The panel of experts said that during face-to-face interviews with staff at all levels, they saw open and honest dialogue that reflected a positive safety culture within OCTA. The mere fact that CEO Johnson requested the peer review proved the value of safety within OCTA, they said.

The report also recommended incorporating safety goals into staff performance objectives and creating a “risk register” to determine where to most effectively allocate resources — recommendations that OCTA will consider moving forward.

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