NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman has been announced March 11, 2014, as the National Safety Council

NTSB's Hersman Pulls No Punches in Safety Speech

"Investing in safety is not discretionary; like justice, safety deferred is safety denied," the chairman said at a Transportation Research Board conference last week.

National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah A. P. Hersman gave a speech last week at a Transportation Research Board conference that should resonate with Congress as this year's budget is decided. Pulling no punches about the importance of maintaining America's infrastructure, Hersman said the board's accident investigations point out the need for a new perspective on safety culture and infrastructure alike.

She talked about all modes of transportation and accidents the board has investigated. "If you're going to build a transportation project that's going to stand for decades, the foundation of future operating decisions may well be based on the original documentation. Make sure your records stand the test of time," she said. She mentioned that, four years before a fatal 2009 train collision on Washington's Metro transit system, a precursor incident led to the development of a test to detect the component failure that was involved in that 2009 collision. The WMATA agency did not ensure the new procedures were adopted and understood by their maintenance crews, however. "What Metro needed in 2005 was a safety culture that ensured that the lessons learned were communicated to all parts of the organization," she said.

"We believe -- and Americans have the right to assume -- that our infrastructure is built to last. And indeed it does last. We definitely got the extended warranty on some of those landmark projects. Unfortunately at the rate we're going we really needed the lifetime guarantee," Hersman said. She praised the contributions of former FAA Administrator Jane Garvey and former House Transportation Committee Chairman James Oberstar, who were honored at the conference for their work in transportation safety. "Let's build on their work by creating a culture of safety, making sure that aging infrastructure is not exempted from safety requirements, and keeping records not just for your successor, but for your successor's successor," Hersman said. "Investing in safety is not discretionary; like justice, safety deferred is safety denied."

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