• WEATHER ALERT Winter Weather Advisory

BART board changes safety rules after worker deaths

BART is dropping a safety protocol known as "simple approval" after two workers were killed on the tracks over the weekend.
October 24, 2013 6:58:45 PM PDT
The BART board held a special session Thursday morning recognizing Christopher Sheppard and Larry Daniels -- who were killed on the tracks in Walnut Creek on Saturday. This was the first time the board has met since the workers were killed and since the strike ended.

The meeting began with a moment of silence to remember Sheppard and Daniels. The NTSB said the train that struck the men was being used to teach managers how to drive the trains during the strike.

Before the meeting, members of the group called United Public Workers for Action called for criminal charges in the deaths of the workers. The group is not comprised of BART workers, or former BART employees.

"We have no faith in management policing itself," said Charles Rachlis of United Public Workers for Action. "We have no faith in the courts policing themselves. We call for mass meetings of labor, we call for the whole trade union movement to fill up convention centers, and to turn out the rank and file and to have a tribunal against management to hold these butchers responsible and then we will jail them."

"The NTSB is doing an independent investigation," BART spokesperson Alicia Trost said. "They're going to draw conclusions. Everyone has a lot of questions they want right away. Everyone at BARt wants to know exactly what happens. We are in the middle of a grieving process and it's extremely unfortunate that there are some that want to politicize these two very tragic deaths while we're waiting for those answers from the NTSB."

So far, the National Transportation Safety Board has said the two men were supposed to be responsible for their own safety on the tracks, under a policy that the BART Board voted to eliminate Thursday.

That rule change is just the beginning for BART. Safety was a key focus at Thursday's meeting.

In the wake of that deadly accident, both BART and the board agreed that the transit agency needs a top to bottom safety review from an outside expert. But the board didn't wait, and put into place safety measures that will begin immediately.

This was the first BART Board of Directors meeting since the death of two workers on the second day of a labor strike

"I would urge that a plan be put together as quickly as possible and presented to this board," BART Board Director Joel Keller said.

Keller wasted no time calling for top to bottom system-wide safety investigation by an outside agency as an act of transparency to bolster public trust.

"Initiate this investigation as quickly as possible," he said. "Because as with the previous incident, it wasn't until we got that report in front of the public that we were able to turn around perception."

There was also a decision made to end the transit agency's "simple approval" process; a practice that made ground crews responsible for their own safety, with one serving as "lookout" for the other while performing maintenance on the tracks. It was that practice that engineers Sheppard and Daniels were working under when they were struck and killed by a train.

"You can't be that arrogant and that cavalier about something so involved as being a train operator as operating a train on rail when people are wayside, which means they're on the trackway," ATU Local 1555 President Antonette Bryant said.

Under the new rules, the trains must be kept under a speed of 27 miles per hour in all work areas, or re-routed all together if crews are on the tracks.

"Workers will have to get a work order which is gonna provide more protections for those workers," Trost said.

It still isn't clear what role, if any, simple approval may have played in Saturday's deaths. But BART made it clear they have nothing to hide and are looking for answers too.

"While we wait for answers from NTSB, they will paint a clear picture of what happened," Trost said.

A final report from the NTSB, the federal agency leading the investigation, is expected to take at least six months to complete.


Load Comments