Metro Workers Distrust Managers

Employees hesitate to report problems fearing reprisals

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Investigators work at the site where two Red Line Metrorail trains collided with one another between the Fort Totten and Takoma Park stations in Washington, D.C.

    The cause of the Metro crash that killed nine people last June has not yet been officially determined, but signs point to a faulty track sensor that failed to identify a train stopped on the tracks near Fort Totten.

    The moving train should have stopped automatically behind the stopped train and avoided the collision.

    NTSB Hearings Reveal Metro Safety Issues

    [DC] NTSB Hearings Reveal Metro Safety Issues
    The National Transportation Safety Board wrapped up a three-day public hearing that some say uncovered serious flaws within metro's safety plan. Senior officials with Metro say they now plan on making serious changes to the transit system. (Published Thursday, Feb 25, 2010)

    On the third and final day of this week's National Transportation Safety Board hearings into the crash, safety experts testified that problems within an organization like Metro can lead to accidents.

    "We do know that a very important part of a safety culture is having a system, a culture where people can report problems without feeling like there will be retribution," NTSB Board of Inquiry Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.

    Jackie Jeter, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 639, said that's not the culture at Metro. Employees hesitate to report problems to superiors, she said.

    "There is a lot of discipline but there is not al lot of looking into the root cause of what the problem is -- punishment instead of trying to find out what the problem is," she said, adding that the employees don't trust Metro's management.

    Metro is ready to change, General Manager John Catoe Jr. said.

    "We have to insure our employees they can communicate safety issues and there will be no consequences of a negative nature to them and that, really, we embrace it," Catoe said. "We encourage it, and it's all about responsibility."

    Some people left the hearing discouraged.

    "The way I feel right now is everybody was there but there was nobody doing their job, OK," said Carolyn Jenkins, whose daughter Veronica Dubose died in the June crash. "So now I have a bigger job. I have to go and tell my grandkids that their mother died because there wasn't anybody doing their job, and it's sad, truly sad."

    The NTSB Board of Inquiry will take the testimony and evidence and render a final report with conclusions about the cause of the June accident. It's expected by June 22, the one-year anniversary of the tragedy.