Security and Safety

Chicago's Metra expands Confidential Close Call Reporting System

Posted on March 8, 2016

Representatives of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Chicago Metra management and 10 unions announced a major expansion of the agency’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), giving Metra the most comprehensive safety reporting system of all commuter railroads in the nation.

The voluntary safety reporting system is designed to proactively address safety issues and create a more positive safety culture. It started at Metra last summer with unions that operate Metra trains and is now being expanded to include unions that work in Metra’s mechanical, engineering and police departments. Metra is the first U.S. commuter railroad to have a Confidential Close Call Reporting System that includes every union involved in the railroad’s operations.

“This announcement demonstrates Metra’s commitment to making safety our number one priority,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “It is significant that management and all 13 of Metra’s labor unions came together on this important and groundbreaking initiative. We share the common goal of making Metra the safest possible railroad.”

At a ceremony at Metra headquarters, labor, management and FRA officials signed a memorandum of understanding outlining their commitment to implementing the voluntary system.

According to the FRA, the system complements existing safety programs, builds a positive safety culture, creates an early warning system, focuses on problems instead of people, provides an incentive for learning from errors and targets the root cause of an issue, not the symptom.

Under the system, employees can confidentially report “close calls” — such as safety concerns or violations of operating rules — without facing sanctions from Metra or the FRA. The goal is to collect data about close calls that otherwise would have gone unreported or underreported and to use that data to identify safety hazards and take steps to correct them before an accident occurs. Those corrective steps could include new or better training, physical changes, changes to safety rules or changes to operating rules.

To maintain confidentiality, the close calls are reported to a third party, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which removes any information about the incidents that could lead to the identification of the employee. NASA compiles the data and then forwards it for analysis by a peer review team of labor, Metra management and FRA representatives, which recommends corrective action. NASA also monitors trends across railroads and shares results.

“There have been 130 confidential calls made to the program since it started at Metra,” Orseno said. “Since we implemented C3RS last year, we’ve seen a reduction in the number of workplace injuries and lost time on the job.”

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