Firm Hired to Improve Transit Safety

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Metro has approved a five-year contract with DuPont Safety Resources, a division of the industrial giant, to reduce the number of work-related injuries and bus and rail accidents by 50 percent, officials said yesterday.

Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. has said he wants to change the agency culture. When he took over in January, he promised to hire a firm to assess agency safety and set up a comprehensive training program. In recent months, Metro trains and buses have been involved in fatal accidents that have raised concerns among federal officials and riders.

Under the contract with DuPont, the company will be paid only when the safety goals are met, officials said. Payment will be based on performance, with DuPont receiving a percentage of savings from the reduction in workers' compensation claims and accidents.

The DuPont team will spend about two months on the assessment "to really understand where the injuries are coming from," said Rosanne Danner, regional vice president. A company with proper safety procedures in place might not be following those procedures, she said.

Metro has more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 7,000 in bus or rail service or in paratransit service for the elderly and disabled.

In his last job, Catoe put in place a similar safety program as No. 2 official at the Los Angeles transit agency. In Los Angeles, which also hired DuPont, employee injuries dropped 61 percent in six years, and workers' compensation claims fell by more than half, Los Angeles transit officials have said.

In Washington, Deputy General Manager Gerald C. Francis, who also came from Los Angeles and who worked closely with the DuPont team, said he expects the company to create an action plan for all Metro employees.

Under the contract, DuPont pledges to increase accountability for safety and adherence to rules.

Metro spends $17 million on workers' compensation claims annually. In fiscal 2006, which ended in June 2006, Metro received 1,216 claims, less than a 1 percent increase from the previous year.

There were 41 rail passenger injuries in fiscal 2006, up from 36 the year before, according to Metro's annual safety report. There were 41 bus collisions with pedestrians in fiscal 2006, five resulting in deaths, compared with 34 the year before, none of which involved fatalities.

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