Report: Metro workers may work 15-hour shifts

Stations along the Blue and Yellow Lines will be closed this weekend. (AP)

Adam Tuss,

WASHINGTON – A new report says it’s possible for some Metro train operators to remain on the job for shifts of 15 hours or more — a finding likely to raise concern among area commuters.

The report — which Metro boardmembers discussed Thursday — takes an in-depth look at the amount of hours some employees are logging. Among its findings: While rare, it is possible for some to work 16-hour shifts, seven days a week.

That brought about a stern response from boardmembers, including Tom Downs, who represents D.C.

“We (as a board) are not recognizing that we are creating financial incentives for people to put their lives at risk,” said Downs. “I’m not comfortable that 112 hours per week is an acceptable standard.”

A Metro spokesman says if train operators worked such extended shifts, they would not be behind the controls of a train the entire time.

Still, one roadblock toward setting up work-hour limits for Metro is that there are no industry standards for rail transit employees delineating how long they can be on the job.

“I don’t care,” said Downs. “Our responsibility is to clearly state what we think are acceptable hours of work cumulatively, and proceed with it as quickly as we can.”

After the meeting, Metro General Manager Richard Sarles told reporters the transit is looking to modify policy.

“We are trying to make people much more aware of what fatigue is about,” said Sarles.

Sarles said 98 percent of train operators work less than 14 hours a day — and there’s practically no operator that works more than 70 hours per week.

Much of the concern about lengthy work hours centers around technicians and track workers who are upgrading and repairing the system, Sarles said.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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