State legislators question BART safety policies

BART officials faced tough questions Thursday from state lawmakers who want to prevent another tragedy on the rails.
November 7, 2013 6:27:23 PM PST
BART was in the hot seat Thursday in San Francisco at a hearing called by state legislators. They want to know what's being done to prevent another accident like the one that killed two men in October, and why something wasn't done earlier to prevent it.

Immediately after the October 19 accident that killed Christopher Shepherd and Laurence Daniels, BART temporarily, then permanently, suspended use of a practice called "simple approval." Simple approval basically leaves trackside safety up to the workers themselves.

On Thursday, the state assembly labor and employment committee asked why that practice was still in use in October when OSHA had said it contributed to two prior BART deaths in 2001 and 2008. They als wanted know why it took this accident to end it.

BART Assistant General Manager of Operations Paul Oversier testified that many lessons were learned and many changes made after those earlier accidents. He pointed out to the committee that simple approval is a common industry practice and that over the past five years, there were in the neighborhood of 40,000 simple approvals issued without incident.

The unions complained that they were never formally notified that simple approvals were permanently suspended and slammed BART for what it called a "cavalier safety culture" where on-time performance trumps safety concerns every time.

It is now up to the assemblymen to decide if anything they heard Thursday requires a legislative fix.


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