WMATA Sees 'Clear Roadmap' to Better Safety Culture

An employee survey's results presented Oct. 28 at the first meeting of the new Safety and Security Committee for the Washington, D.C. transit system shows the right changes are being made, said Interim GM Richard Sarles.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) continues to make progress on its safety systems and culture, top agencies officials said Oct. 28 as they released the results of a new employee survey. The findings were shared at the first meeting of the new Safety and Security Committee for the Washington, D.C. transit system and shows the right changes are being made, said Interim GM Richard Sarles. The agency said 9,317 employees completed the survey.

"These survey results provide a clear roadmap to develop a long-term, action-specific safety plan to reach our goal to make safety fundamental in our day-to-day operation," he said. "The plan itself will dovetail actions we have already taken to improve our safety culture."

"It is vitally important that we understand how all employees perceive safety as we build an organization that is dedicated, from the frontline to the Board of Directors, to preventing incidents from ever taking place," said Mortimer Downey, who chairs the committee. "The role of employees in this effort is critical to its success."

The survey indicated different groups of employees have different perceptions about Metro based on their own job functions and work locations. About 60 percent of those surveyed said they had observed a safety concern or violation in the past year while on the job, and about 70 percent reported it. "The number one safety concern that employees observed while on the job, as well as the one most often reported, was unsafe working conditions," the agency explained in a release about the results. "Third, there is a strong concern about retaliation. Employees said that they fear how their peers might react and whether Metro would respond and protect them. Mid-level managers were found to be the most positive about safety and Metro's safety culture in general. This result was encouraging as it provides an influential group that can help reinforce safe behavior and establish a safety culture."

Safety officers have been assigned to work in operational facilities, be present during major track projects, and participate in and oversee incident investigations. Success stories of employees who report safety concerns are being shared at board meetings and in Sarles' weekly e-mail to employees. The first winners in WMATA's new Champions of Safety Recognition Program will be honored this month.

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