D.C. Metro launches 'close call' reporting system

Posted on June 13, 2013

Largo Towne Center Metro rail station. WMATA photo by Larry Levine
Largo Towne Center Metro rail station. WMATA photo by Larry Levine
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro), in partnership with the ATU Local 689, is launching a new pilot program designed to enhance safety by increasing the opportunity for employee reporting of incidents or situations that have the potential for more serious consequences. Metro will become the first rail transit agency in the nation to promote a confidential “Close Call Transit Safety Reporting System.”

While Metro has instituted many safety initiatives to report safety concerns, close call reporting provides another avenue of reporting incidents confidentially, which will enable employees to keep a constant focus and attention to safety. These incidents will not be subject to administrative discipline, but the knowledge of their existence is critical in maintaining and changing the safety culture, according to Metro.

“We want to know what we don’t know, and Close Call reporting is a proven way of gathering information at a stage when we can act to prevent more serious safety incidents, reverse bad habits or address emerging trends,” said Metro GM/CEO Richard Sarles.

Confidentiality for employees who report close calls is critical for success of the pilot. It allows them to report events that would otherwise go unreported, without fear of possible discipline.

The partnership also includes the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of the Research Innovative Technology Administration, to help manage the project and take confidential safety reports from employees.

Beginning this summer, Metro employees who see or experience unsafe conditions can submit a report to BTS. To maintain confidentiality, BTS removes all identifying information, conducts interviews with employees who submit reports, and then presents information about emerging trends and new sources of risks to a joint Metro/Labor committee known as the Peer Review Team. This trained team, which works under a strict confidentiality agreement required by BTS, will meet regularly to establish root causes of reported events and recommend actions Metro should take to stop them from reoccurring.

BTS has more than six years’ experience in the same role for Canadian Pacific Railway, Union Pacific Railroad and New Jersey Transit in the Federal Railroad Administration’s separate and ongoing Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) pilot.

“While reporting will be confidential, this program does not eliminate employee accountability for serious rules violations such as signal adherence,” said Metro Deputy GM, Operations, Rob Troup.

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