Accident Prompts BART to Suspend 'Simple Approval' Practice

The NTSB did a re-enactment of the Oct. 19 incident in which a BART employee and a contract worker were struck by an out-of-service train and killed.

The National Transportation Safety Board has conducted a re-enactment as it tried to find out why two workers were hit and killed Oct. 19 by an out-of-service Bay Area Rapid Transit train being run in automatic mode, under computer control, with two operator trainees on board and in the process of being trained. NTSB on-scene Investigator James Southworth held his final on-scene press briefing Oct. 22, in which he discussed BART's "simple approval" practice, which was in use at the time.

"Simple approval" means that employees working on or near tracks are responsible for their own safety, and one of the two workers who died should have been acting as a lookout. "Under simple approval, they're to expect a train on any track, in any direction, at any time," Southworth explained. BART's posted statement about the incident says the two workers were performing track inspections in response to a report about a dip in the track. "Both people had extensive experience working around moving trains in both the freight train and the rapid transit industry. The procedures involved in track maintenance require one employee to inspect the track and the other to act as a lookout and notify of any oncoming traffic," according to the agency.

BART indefinitely suspended its "simple approval" practice one day after the men were hit, ordering that access to right of way be done with work areas that protect crews from train movement and restricting trains below 27 mph in all work areas, or else stopped or routed around them, Matthias Gafni of the Contra Costa Times reported.

Southworth said the BART cars are not equipped with systems that measure their speed. Investigators have requested 30 days of maintenance records from the cars involved in the incident, and BART is assembling the data, he said, adding that the cars' lights, horn, and brakes were operable with no defects noted. The trainee operator and the supervisor trainer are among the people investigators have interviewed, he said.

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