When you think of public transportation some images that come to mind might be of a bus pulling up to the curb or a light rail train arriving at the station. What most of us typically don’t visualize is the complicated organizational system that is required to get that bus or train to the end user each day. Public transit agencies have an intricate web of moving parts, from route design and scheduling to vehicle maintenance and security. Also within that web are critical system elements of the agency’s safety process and culture.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) is preparing to release what will likely be the first of many rules mandating safety management system (SMS) practices for agencies that receive federal funding. Over the next several years, the manner in which a local transit agency structures, manages, and supports safety will undergo a radical transformation.
By developing a partnership with both Seattle-based King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit (ST), Terracon has been at the forefront of this safety transformation. Over the past year, a team of Terracon environmental safety and organizational development consultants have been assisting these agencies with safety systems evaluations and making recommendations for improving and advancing these systems for the protection of their users.
For King County Metro Transit, one of the largest bus agencies in the country, the Terracon team conducted a comprehensive safety system review. This ground-breaking project involved hundreds of hours of interviews, focus groups, workshops, inspections, and document reviews. Terracon also participated in ride-a-longs on numerous routes and at all times of the day and night. Also, an agency-wide safety culture survey was administered to more than 4,000 employees. Terracon and several expert subcontractors recently produced the final report as well as an implementation plan for the agency. Terracon recommendations covered a wide range of actions including creating an agency-wide safety risk register, strengthening the safety data systems, creating safety accountability throughout the organization, and implementing a near-miss reporting system. All of these recommendations align with the proposed FTA SMS requirements.
For Sound Transit, the Terracon team completed a comprehensive review of the agency’s employee health and safety program and is currently working with staff to mine rail incident data for trend analysis. Terracon is also partnering with the agency to develop a near-miss reporting system, a hallmark of a positive safety culture.
One of the many noteworthy aspects of these projects is that Terracon’s own Incident and Injury-Free (IIF) implementation and journey has been used as a solid example of a safety culture transformation. Many parts of our journey have direct relevance to agencies that may be considering how to address their safety programs, including the emphasis on leadership and employee engagement, core Rules and Practices, and near-miss reporting systems. By implementing these safety processes, Terracon can help agencies take the next steps to becoming compliant with the FTA’s new rules for safety management systems.