Metro made “substantial progress” in addressing safety concerns raised in a recent audit, but has work to do in confronting a reportedly toxic workplace culture, the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission said Tuesday.
At a Tuesday evening commission meeting, Washington Metrorail Safety Commission CEO David Mayer said his panel approved a plan put forward by Metro to ensure “controllers have proper, complete and recurring training on the use of emergency ventilation fans.”
The training is important to avoid dangerous incidents, such as the deadly smoke event near the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in 2015, during which rail employees tried unsuccessfully to clear smoke from the tunnel.
After the audit was published earlier this month, the commission said it would give Metro 45 days to develop plans and address 21 findings that the commission said urgently required corrective action.
“Metrorail has now made substantial progress on those plans,” Mayer said.
Another plan approved by the commission includes a system of regulations meant to ensure nobody is near the electrified third rail when power is restored following a crash or other incident that forces the power to be shut down..
Mayer said he still had concerns about “adequate staffing and training” at Metro’s Rail Operations Control Center, which the audit described as having a chaotic “toxic workplace culture” beset by sexual comments, harassment and other unprofessional behavior.
“Metrorail has not followed its own fatigue management policies that require at least one day off per week, has not addressed recurring safety issues, and has not implemented adequate recruitment, hiring and training practices,” the 50-page audit said.
The audit was based, in part, on more than two dozen Rail Operations Control Center employees, including nearly all of the controllers employed in the center as of March.
Controllers decried a lack of structure in the control center and said managers regularly cursed and yelled at them, made racist and homophobic remarks and made explicit sexual remarks toward women who worked there.
The audit also found ROCC management “baselessly threatened” to fire or even arrest controllers for asking questions of management or for properly following procedures.