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Eastern Railroad Discussion > Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?


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Date: 06/22/15 10:20
Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: Lackawanna484

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Canadian federal government has laid various federal charges against individuals and corporations for actions related to the 2013 Lac Megantic explosion. The "absence of a safety culture" was noted in the Transport Safety Board report, and seems to underlie the current charges.

So, should a railroader, or rail company, or shipper be held criminally liable (jail time, etc) for the absence of a safety culture? And, at a minimum, what should go into a safety culture?  A guy doesn't ask for three point protection, and loses his leg below the knee. An engineer is fatigued, and misinterprets a radio directive intended for somebody else.  A yardmaster directs a rookie yard employee to undertake a dangerous task for which the newbie hasn't been trained.

Should transport of haz-mat have its own special enforcement and penalties?  Should haz-mat engineers and conductors be selected as carefully as crew for an office car special?

 



Date: 06/22/15 10:44
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: nsrlink

The #1 thing that keeps me safe is me.
The 2nd thing that keeps me safe are the people I work around and with.
Rules provide a framework, but no rule will keep people safe.
People keep people safe.
 



Date: 06/22/15 11:03
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: TAW

Lackawanna484 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The Wall Street Journal reports that the Canadian
> federal government has laid various federal
> charges against individuals and corporations for
> actions related to the 2013 Lac Megantic
> explosion. The "absence of a safety culture" was
> noted in the Transport Safety Board report, and
> seems to underlie the current charges.

Not being a lawyer, it seems so straightforward: charges implies crime implies violation of a law. It would then seem that there must be a law requiring a safety culture. But then, safety culture must be specifically defined, or at least in the US, where laws can be deemed by the Supreme Court to be vague and unenforceable.

>
> So, should a railroader, or rail company, or
> shipper be held criminally liable (jail time, etc)
> for the absence of a safety culture?

I have had some lack of safety culture jobs. Had any Bad Things [tm] occurred, lack of safety culture would not have been chargeable, since there is no statute or regulations requiring or specifying safety culture in those countries. However, the lack of safety culture in every case was manifested by continual and repeated violations of a wide array of violations of concepts and actions that were indeed laws. Should a Big Event have occurred, the string of repeated and continual violations might be brought to light and something might be done about them (but the long list of violations is typically ignored in favor of hanging the participants in the latest one).

>And, at a
> minimum, what should go into a safety culture?

That shouldn't take more than 50, maybe 100 pages, although one gig involved about 500 pages (including the what to do about it sections).

Safety culture includes important elements (e.g., fatigue, morale, pride) that management typically does not want to hear about.

> A
> guy doesn't ask for three point protection, and
> loses his leg below the knee. An engineer is
> fatigued, and misinterprets a radio directive
> intended for somebody else.  A yardmaster directs
> a rookie yard employee to undertake a dangerous
> task for which the newbie hasn't been trained.

Part of one of those safety culture gigs involved a workshop with management in which a recent collision between a passenger train and a yard job was examined for root cause. All sorts of root cause blame was brought up. The conductor violated this. The engineer violated this. The dispatcher violated this. Then I piped up with the conductor didn't start doing this for this event. It has obviously been going on for a long time. Everyone was comfortable with it. The engineer didn't start doing this for this event. Everyone was comfortable with it. The dispatcher didn't start doing his this for this event. Everyone was comfortable with it. All of these things were ignored/accepted by the local managers for a long time. In fact, guess what, the dispatcher was a manager filling in for an absent employee. If he did this, it is certainly common.

A word for consultants - when you are hired by management to find and correct the problems in the organization, management being the problem is not the correct answer.

>
> Should transport of haz-mat have its own special
> enforcement and penalties?

49 CFR 130-177

>  Should haz-mat
> engineers and conductors be selected as carefully
> as crew for an office car special?

I worked with a German locomotive engineer on a safety gig. She had a haz-mat endorsement on her locomotive engineer license. Truck drivers here require one.

Here, the hazardous materials rules (developed from 49 CFR 174) are included in operating rules testing (but only minimally), so theoretically, everyone is tested and qualified (just like theoretically a person in train or engine service who has been off duty 30 hours is uh....fully rested).

TAW
 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/22/15 11:13 by TAW.



Date: 06/22/15 11:16
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: CPR_4000

Could a "lack of safety culture" be interpreted legally as contributory negligence?



Date: 06/22/15 11:52
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: Lackawanna484

TAW Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
(snip)
> Here, the hazardous materials rules (developed
> from 49 CFR 174) are included in operating rules
> testing (but only minimally), so theoretically,
> everyone is tested and qualified (just like
> theoretically a person in train or engine service
> who has been off duty 30 hours is uh....fully
> rested).
>
> TAW
>  
Yes.

That's what I was getting at in the comment about selecting crews for special, executive moves. The Company pays the penalty to the guy who was bumped to get the guys they want on the special. All well and good. Perhaps they should be exercising similar selectivity for the next oil train, LPG string, chlorine tankers, etc.

The idea that a guy who sees an oil train, ethanol train, LPG train once every six months is skilled at handling it strikes me as a fndamentally bad idea.

 



Date: 06/22/15 13:17
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: NormSchultze

It isn't the "lack of a safety culture" that is criminal.   It is taking an action, or not taking it, that caused death.  Thats manslaughter, same as I take my car and mow down shoppers at the farmers market.  



Date: 06/22/15 13:52
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: halfmoonharold

There would have to be a separate pool for hazmat trains. Office car specials are very rare moves, but selectively picking crews for certain trains on a daily basis would result in chaos in the crew pools. Requiring more training for all might work better.



Date: 06/22/15 14:20
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: TAW

Lackawanna484 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> TAW Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> (snip)
> > Here, the hazardous materials rules (developed
> > from 49 CFR 174) are included in operating
> rules
> > testing (but only minimally), so theoretically,
> > everyone is tested and qualified (just like
> > theoretically a person in train or engine
> service
> > who has been off duty 30 hours is uh....fully
> > rested).
> >
> > TAW
> >  
> Yes.
>
> That's what I was getting at in the comment about
> selecting crews for special, executive moves. The
> Company pays the penalty to the guy who was bumped
> to get the guys they want on the special. All well
> and good. Perhaps they should be exercising
> similar selectivity for the next oil train, LPG
> string, chlorine tankers, etc.
>
> The idea that a guy who sees an oil train, ethanol
> train, LPG train once every six months is skilled
> at handling it strikes me as a fndamentally bad
> idea.

However, the percentage of Spectacular Oil Train Debacles that have been caused by the faulty work of train and engine service employees is very small. There is greater instance of track and mechanical causes, but not the same specific ones repeatedly.

In a large part of the country, most carload trains have some hazmat. The separate pool approach wouldn't work out all that well. That's why everybody is required to be conversant with the hazardous material rules and procedures.

Could training and examination be more comprehensive? Mmmmm probably.

TAW

 



Date: 06/22/15 14:28
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: justalurker66

CPR_4000 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Could a "lack of safety culture" be interpreted legally as contributory negligence?

That would be my opinion on the question. While there are a lot of "defined terms" type of rules where some may consider a "safety culture" to be a specific document or set of documents at the core EVERY business should have some concept of what is safe, what is not and should they not encourage their employees and contractors to follow safe methods of work they would be negligent.

The culture is exposed when there is an incident. Something really bad happens and after the fact workers are interviewed and it is determined that the employer did or did not care about the safety of their operations. Even if they had a written document outlining what it means to work safe, an employer could be negiligent in enforcing their rules and fostering an unsafe workplace.

A care less attitude toward safety can grow to the criminal level. I would answer the question as "yes".



Date: 06/22/15 15:11
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: Englewood

When I hear the term "safety culture" I want to vomit.

I discovered what it was all about in the mid 90's when I attended a
system "Rules and Safety" meeting.  There were many pressing rules
issues that needed to be hashed out.  What turned out to be really
important was the nonsense of breaking into groups and brainstorming
on what percent of a transportation superintendent's yearly bonus should
be based on "their" safety performance.  That was my "ah ha" moment.
The real concern for safety was how it affected their bonus.  Hence
all the shenanigans such as sending a company official to the hospital
with an injured employee in order to talk the doctor into giving an over
the counter pain reliever instead of prescription Tylenol.

On a previous road I was astonished to find that a crew base was receiving a
safety award dinner for having no reportable injuries for a certain period.
During that same period one crew had occupied the main track in TWC
without a Track Warrant and another had run a Stop Signal.  Those incidents
apparently were not safety related as they did not result in any pinched fingers.

That was the same road where a conductor came into the Glass House to
report to the Transporation Superintendent (who just happened to be in there)
that he had cut his hand.  It was a pretty good gash but nothing requiring stitches etc.
The conductor did not want any medical attention, he was just reporting an injury
as required by company rules.  The Supt. acted as though he did not hear the
conductor, so the condutor repeated his statement.  The Supt. then said in his Memphis drawl "if I hear
you, then I will have you pee tested." The conductor then repeated that he was
just following the rules in reporting an injury, even if insignificant.
The Supt. then repeated his statement.  Back and forth it went a few
times before the conductor left in frustration, muttering something about "safety"
Of course since the Supt. never head  about the injury there was never an
investigation to repair an injury causing piece of equipment.

That was the same railroad who claimed it was safe to have one person in the cab
because the trip was less than 6 hours (it may have been 4 hours at that time).
In reality the day's work was a 4 hour trip one way, a 5 hour "rest period" and
then another 4 hours back home. Unless the trip home was delayed waiting for
connections or the repair of bad ordered equipment.  Then in reality it might have
been 16 hours from the time the engineer got out of his car in the parking lot to
go to work and the time he got back in his car.  No safety problem there because
the engineer had 5 hours of sleep in between trips.  Right, try that some time.


On a more recent job, management had a consultant from Dow snooping around
talking about safety.  A few days later while heading to the bathroom I saw that
B&B had run an extension cord on the carpet in front of the bathroom door and
did not secure it with duct tape.  This was directly across from the open door to
the GM Transportation's office.  I though this was a perfect time to "**** with the
screws", so I immediately declared an unsafe condition.  I brought it to the GM's
attention (who had his feet up on his desk) and asked if he had some duct tape
so I could make the hazard safe.  Unconcerned, he replied " no, go ask my clerk
if she has some".

On the same property they were in a rush to move the DS office to another part of the
building so they could convert the old office into the GM conference room. In their rush
we had to deal with equipment set up on card tables and once the permanent desks were
installed the keyboards had to be mounted sideways so the trainsheet would have room to
slide.  In typical B&B and Signal Dept. fashion, after the move was completed, one end of the
office had a mass of tangled extension cords, antenna cables and other wires on the floor.
The obvious tripping hazard remained for months until one day the chief was complaining of
his bad knees.  The management "supervisor" in the same office was a Safety Dept. reject
from another railroad. Loudly (so I knew Mr. Safety would hear me)  in jest,  I suggested to the chief
that he should walk around the other end of the office and take a tumble on the wires laying all over the floor. 
I would be his witness.  My thought in that was to embarass the safety jackass into getting the wires cleaned up. 
He wanted to fire me for conspiring with the chief to commit a phony injury.

As one expert in the field has stated "if you find a property with a very low
personal injury ratio, run for your life".  In that case the company has dwelt
on issues that are never the causes of big life threatening disasters.  Did you know
that the day of the gulf oil rig explosion they were celebrating their low personal injury rate?

You can complain about signals that routinely drop in the face of speeding trains, 10 mph
slow orders on ethanol and oil train routes that are not repaired for months, gates that fail
to work properly when it snows, signal aspects that are not in the timetable, but none
of that will ever get addressed. Those conditions do not cause pinched fingers and
back sprains, so fixing them will have no effect on management bonuses.
 



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 06/22/15 16:24 by Englewood.



Date: 06/22/15 16:21
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: TAW

Englewood Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> When I hear the term "safety culture" I want to
> vomit.
>
> I discovered what it was all about in the mid 90's
> when I attended a
> system "Rules and Safety" meeting.  There were
> many pressing rules
> issues that needed to be hashed out.  What turned
> out to be really
> important was the nonsense of breaking into groups
> and brainstorming
> on what percent of transportation superintendent's
> yearly bonus should
> be based on "their" safety performance.  That was
> my "ah ha" moment.

Sounds so familiar.

In the early 80s, a system rules examiner came to the office to personally present each of us with a division safety award. It was a thermometer (that didn't work) cast into a block of clear acrylic that was adorned with a BN logo and a slogan about being the safest division.

In those years, rules and procedures were being ingnored and even eliminated by management that even had the temerity to tell us that they didn't understand that rule/procedure so we weren't going to use it any more. (!)

We had head on collisions, rear enders, running over Gandys, running over switchmen, and all sorts of such things all over the system. However, there was safety scorekeeping. The Pacific Division had the best score of any division on the system. The system rules examiner? Well, I had argued him into a corner several times over what was right, wrong, and irrelevant. I was underwhelmed at the opposition he presented in defense of doing things I didn't want to do (or not do).

I took the jun....er, award and said "So we're the division that killed the fewest guys this year, wa hoo."

He looked upset but wisely said nothing, preferrring instead to exit hastily and head for the next guy to whom he would hand an award - hopefully a more appreciative and demure one.

> As one expert in the field has stated "if you find
> a property with a very low
> personal injury ratio, run for your life".  In
> that case the company has dwelt
> on issues that are never the causes of big life
> threatening disasters.  Did you know
> that the day of the gulf oil rig explosion, they
> were having a celebration of their
> low injury rate?

That has been expressed several times by various experts. I have cited such in reports that nobody wanted to read.

TAW



Date: 06/22/15 16:22
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: wabash1189

halfmoonharold Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> There would have to be a separate pool for hazmat
> trains. Office car specials are very rare moves,
> but selectively picking crews for certain trains
> on a daily basis would result in chaos in
> the crew pools. Requiring more training for all
> might work better.

Precisely this. Selectively picking crews for every hazmat train is unrealistic, and setting up a pool for them just makes another headache to manage.



Date: 06/22/15 17:29
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: Lackawanna484

wabash1189 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> halfmoonharold Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > There would have to be a separate pool for
> hazmat
> > trains. Office car specials are very rare
> moves,
> > but selectively picking crews for certain
> trains
> > on a daily basis would result in chaos in
> > the crew pools. Requiring more training for
> all
> > might work better.
>
> Precisely this. Selectively picking crews for
> every hazmat train is unrealistic, and setting up
> a pool for them just makes another headache to
> manage.

Right.

But this has been a problem for decades. The superintendent knows if Charlie, the next guy out, gets the OCS job, the super's job may be in danger. So the company pays the penalty and puts a better engineer on the run.

The average haz-mat, explosive, etc run?  Don't worry about it, Charlie will do just fine...



Date: 06/23/15 00:22
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: Red

I had to deal with this in my mgmt years both BEFORE & AFTER The FRA made it a Criminal Offense (jail time) to any manager that went into the ER and tried to talk the doc OUT of presribing anything that wasn't "over the counter." And one would have to be on the phone every 10 minutes or so with the Supe or General Supe about the "progress," so as to keep it from being a Lost TIme/FRA Reportable INJURY. Believe you me, when the FRA came out with "You take the employee to the hospital--then--leave them ALONE!!!" there were many stressful hours at 2 or 3 in the AM trying to "guide the doc" not to PRESCRIBE ANYTHING. Then telling said employee: "Now if you are in PAIN, then go to your Personal Doctor in the morning and get what you need." This wasn't RIGHT!!!! And a high-pressure situation for managers & TE&Y alike!!! And I was VERY glad when the FRA told all field mgrs to "Stay OUT of the doc exam period...or...you may face a jail sentence for INTERFERING." That made it cut-and-dried and REAL EASY--Stay the Hell OUT of the Exam Room," then just ask said ER Doc "What is the situation?" without ANY trying to INFLUENCE said Doc in ANY WAY!!!  And as it SHOULD BE!!! NO RR Mgr--whatever his/her rank--is QUALIFIED to be an MD!!!  So at least those days are OVER. If anybody is willing to risk a jail sentence--well?!? There aren't many LEFT that I KNOW OF that would risk such--as it SHOULD BE!!! There is one RR that won the "Harriman Safety Award" for almost 20 years running (NOT the RR I worked for!!!)...an certain Eastern RR. Rails will know who I'm talking about!!! And that run of low "FRA Reportable/Lost Work TIme Injuries"...was nothing but "Smoke & Mirrors!!! And you can take that to the BANK!!!



Date: 06/23/15 07:54
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: RS11

My conductor and I was involved in a hit from behind PTI vehicle accident.  Although it has been 10 years now and I am retired, I will never forget the antics railroad officials went through to try to convince the ER doctor to give us over the counter meds instead of prescription strength meds, and how we were "threatened" by said officials.  Talk about a clown show.  Two of their "greatest assets" were treated horribly.    I certainly hope that has changed, but as usual, I am skeptical.

ETA:  Their "safety culture" had almost everything to do with the size of their bonus, and you won't find many managers here who will try to convince you otherwise.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/23/15 07:57 by RS11.



Date: 06/23/15 08:03
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: TAW

<http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?1,2041192,2041558#msg-2041558 Date: 10/22/09 13:20 Re: Is employee morale higher on the BNSF than the UP?>

I worked with a Road Foreman of Engines who forgot more about locomotives than a lot of people will ever know. He was good at making sure the old heads did it right (you didn't really mean to set your grip on the foot pedal, did you?) and taught the younger guys old head tricks. The hoggers would do anything for him at any time. One night as the world began changing toward what it is today, I was 2d trick chief. He called me to give me an accident report. An East Chicago job was kicking cars and the seat back of the engineer's chair (such as it was on an Alco S1 or S2) broke. The engineer was impaled by the broken seat back support and was in a world of hurt in an East Chicago hospital. The era of modern management thinking was just coming about. He told me that he had been instructed to do whatever it took to make this not a reportable accident and see to it that the engineer came to work on some sort of light duty the next day. He told me he couldn't and wouldn't do that so he wanted to tell me that he really enjoyed working with me and he was headed home then leaving town and wouldn't be back. Yup, a railroad manager who has been my standard for integrity for the past 40 years.

TAW



Date: 06/23/15 09:23
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: highgreengraphics

And what about the "Total Safety Culture" BS. Since railroads are inherently dangerous, everybody would get paid for staying at home if that were true, right? === === = === JLH



Date: 06/23/15 09:26
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: Lackawanna484

highgreengraphics Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And what about the "Total Safety Culture" BS.
> Since railroads are inherently dangerous,
> everybody would get paid for staying at home if
> that were true, right? === === = === JLH

There's a quote ascribed to Frederick Vanderbilt that he would start buying George Westinghouse's new air brakes when they were cheaper than brakemen's lives.

Unfortunately, we haven't moved too far from that in 130 years...



Date: 06/23/15 09:29
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: algoma11

I thought I read it was the Quebec government that issued the charges, not the federal boys.

Bear in mind Quebec law is different than the rest of Canada, which is based on the English system.
Sometimes with them they seem to make the laws up as they go along.

 

Mike Bannon
St Catharines, ON



Date: 06/23/15 09:34
Re: Should "lack of a safety culture" be a criminal matter?
Author: Lackawanna484

algoma11 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I thought I read it was the Quebec government that
> issued the charges, not the federal boys.
>
> Bear in mind Quebec law is different than the rest
> of Canada, which is based on the English system.
> Sometimes with them they seem to make the laws up
> as they go along.
>
>  

I believe this is a separate set of charges, which derive from the discharge of harmful fluids into the navigable waters; and failure to observe various parts of the federal railway rules.  The Quebec laws have allowed other charges to be brought.

I don't know how the sequence of charges will play out in court, and how the huge civil setlement fund interacts with the criminal and civil charges.  Lots of work for the lawyers, though



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