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Metra expands major safety reporting system

By Metra Media Relations

Representatives of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Metra management and 10 unions today announced a major expansion of the agency’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), giving Metra the most comprehensive safety reporting system of all commuter railroads in the nation.

The voluntary safety reporting system is designed to proactively address safety issues and create a more positive safety culture. It started at Metra last summer with unions that operate Metra trains and is now being expanded to include unions that work in Metra’s Mechanical, Engineering and Police Departments. Metra is the first U.S. commuter railroad to have a Confidential Close Call Reporting System that includes every union involved in the railroad’s operations.

“This announcement demonstrates Metra’s commitment to making safety our number one priority,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “It is significant that management and all 13 of Metra’s labor unions came together on this important and groundbreaking initiative. We share the common goal of making Metra the safest possible railroad.”

At a ceremony at Metra headquarters, labor, management and FRA officials signed a memorandum of understanding outlining their commitment to implementing the voluntary system. Signees included: Don Orseno, Metra Executive Director/CEO; Pete Zwolfer, Metra Deputy Executive Director for Operations; Jim Derwinski, Metra Chief Mechanical Officer; Bruce Marcheschi, Metra Chief Engineering Officer; Hilary Konczal, Metra Chief Safety and Environmental Officer; Robert Lauby, FRA Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety/Chief Safety Officer; and representatives of the American Railway and Airway Supervisors, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Sheet Metal/Air/Rail/Transportation Union, Brotherhood of Railway Carmen; National Conference of Firemen and Oilers; Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen; Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees and Metropolitan Alliance of Police.

According to the FRA, the system complements existing safety programs, builds a positive safety culture, creates an early warning system, focuses on problems instead of people, provides an incentive for learning from errors and targets the root cause of an issue, not the symptom.

Under the system, employees can confidentially report “close calls” – such as safety concerns or violations of operating rules – without facing sanctions from Metra or the FRA. The goal is to collect data about close calls that otherwise would have gone unreported or underreported, and to use that data to identify safety hazards and take steps to correct them before an accident occurs. Those corrective steps could include new or better training, physical changes, changes to safety rules or changes to operating rules.

To maintain confidentiality, the close calls are reported to a third party, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which removes any information about the incidents that could lead to the identification of the employee. NASA compiles the data and then forwards it for analysis by a peer review team of labor, Metra management and FRA representatives, which recommends corrective action. NASA also monitors trends across railroads and shares results.

“There have been 130 confidential calls made to the program since it started at Metra,” Orseno said. “Since we implemented C3RS last year, we’ve seen a reduction in the number of workplace injuries and lost time on the job.”

A close call is defined by the FRA as “a situation in which an ongoing sequence of events was stopped from developing further, preventing the occurrence of potentially serious safety-related consequences.” Examples of close calls would be trains traveling at excessive speed, workers nearly struck by trains, trains running through a switch or a passenger door opened on the wrong side of the train. Personal injuries, serious train accidents and alcohol or drug use are not considered a close call.

The widespread adoption of the Confidential Close Call Reporting System bolsters Metra’s numerous safety programs and reinforces safety as Metra’s highest priority. Those programs include the Safety Interactive Management (SIMs) teams who work internally to identify potential safety issues and develop solutions, the annual Safety Poster and Essay Contest, nearly 1,000 annual Operation Lifesaver safety presentations and frequent safety blitzes conducted at Metra stations throughout the six-county Chicago region.

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