In a survey of Metro transit workers, most gave the agency in Southern California high marks for safety overall, but nearly half said they have encountered close calls on the job that could have resulted in serious injury or death.
A large majority of mechanics, track workers, bus drivers, train operators and others described their workplace as somewhat safe, not very safe or not safe at all, The Los Angeles Times reported.
A significant number of workers, particularly those who operate and repair transit systems, also believe their supervisors are concerned about safety only when there is a serious accident, the newspaper said.
A report on the survey’s finding states that Metro employees said that accidents were thoroughly investigated, education and training programs were effective, management addressed safety-related complaints and changes in safety rules were adequately communicated.
“There is clearly a positive safety culture at Metro,” researchers wrote, adding that such a distinction is enjoyed by only “a handful of transit agencies.”
Some 745 employees responded to the workplace questionnaire at the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. It was conducted by Sam Schwartz Engineering, a national consulting firm.
Metro Chief Executive Art Leahy told the Times he was pleased that the survey results were “generally positive” and noted that many of its recommendations already have been addressed. For example, he pointed out that the management of the department that maintains rail systems has been changed, more workers have been hired and trackside safety measures improved.
Leahy said he would have liked the poll to be more comprehensive and questioned whether the employees who responded were really representative.
The Times said significant numbers of bus drivers, train operators and those who work on Metro’s rail network were more critical of their safety and agency practices than workers who are less connected to the direct operation and maintenance of rail and bus systems
They claimed that many close calls or near-misses are never reported to supervisors and that Metro is more interested in disciplining individuals for mishaps or safety violations instead of preventing recurrences.
Many other employees who work on tracks and related equipment said they were seriously concerned about pressure from supervisors to ignore some safety rules and procedures to get assignments done.
With about 9,000 employees, Metro operates nearly 2,000 buses and 87 miles of subway and light-rail lines.
The report, obtained by The Times under the state Public Records Act, is scheduled to be discussed at the authority’s December board meeting.