West Falls Church Rail Operator
Since the smoke and fire incident at L’Enfant Plaza in January, our union, riders, and even the leadership at WMATA, have been talking about what went wrong and why. For those of us who work for Metro, we know that January’s incident was just a reminder that Metro’s safety culture is virtually nonexistent. As workers, we cannot forget that there are still things that we must do, even as we wait for WMATA to do what it is supposed to.
As a train operator, I have seen and understand that there are three main reasons Metro doesn’t truly have a safety culture. Those reasons include 1) employees not being trained and re-trained on emergency procedures, 2) being afraid to make safety reports for fear of getting disciplined, and 3) making revenue a greater priority than safety measures.
While we work to hold Metro accountable, the most important thing that we as employees can (and must) do is follow our Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)! The Authority is not going to fix anything it does not see as broken. This means, if we do not follow our SOPs, the accidents that happen will continue to look like they are our fault and Metro will respond, as it has, with discipline instead of needed safety precautions.
I believe that most Metro employees work to the SOPs. But, in light of recent events, I realize that some of us have no clue about some safety precautions. Our union leadership is working hard to hold Metro accountable for what it is not doing to enforce a safety culture, but we must work just as hard. After all, employees set the tone for what Metro’s priorities should be.
Our union has called for all employees to be re-trained at least once a year on emergency procedures. That is a great and necessary step to creating a safety culture. I also recognize the importance of our union’s call for incentive programs to make employees feel more comfortable with making reports. We will not have a safety culture at Metro if we have a work environment where safety problems go unreported because some employees are afraid it may lead to them losing their job. No one should lose their job for making a safety report!
We must keep safety first, and I truly believe if we do, Metro leaders and managers will follow suit. Metro has a lot of work to do to enforce a safety culture for employees and riders, but, in the meantime, we, as union members, need to do all we can to stay safe and follow the SOPs. I want many of the same things that our riders want for Metro. The majority of my family and friends ride the rail system and I know that if my loved ones are in danger that means that someone else’s are, too! Let’s stay safe out here.