BART fined in ’13 work­ers deaths

Track in­spec­tors killed dur­ing driv­ers’ strike

Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sunday) - - THE WEST - By Paul Elias

SAN FRANCISCO — A North­ern Cal­i­for­nia judge fined the Bay Area Rapid Tran­sit agency $220,000 on Fri­day for the deaths of two work­ers ac­ci­den­tally hit by a com­muter train.

Lau­rence Daniels, 66, and Christo­pher Shep­pard, 58, were killed in 2013 while in­spect­ing a track east of San Francisco. They were in­spect­ing the track as the agency was scram­bling to re­store lim­ited ser­vice with man­agers serv­ing as driv­ers amid a work­ers’ strike.

The train that struck the two work­ers was op­er­ated by a trainee with no di­rect su­per­vi­sion in the cab, the judge found. The driver slammed on the emer­gency brake and tried to hit the but­ton to sound the train’s horns but in­stead pressed a but­ton that con­trols the doors.

The tran­sit agency was us­ing a safety pro­ce­dure called “sim­ple ap­proval,” in which track in­spec­tors were re­spon­si­ble for their own safety and de­ter­mined they could clear the track within 15 sec­onds of an ap­proach­ing train.

BART has since elim­i­nated that pol­icy. BART trains are now re­quired to stop if a worker is within 6 feet of the track. BART has also said it has im­proved com­mu­ni­ca­tions be­tween driv­ers, track in­spec­tors and the con­trol cen­ter.

The two work­ers had their backs to the train when struck in vi­o­la­tion of agency safety rules. One mem­ber of in­spec­tion crews is al­ways sup­posed to be watch­ing for trains.

The Cal­i­for­nia Pub­lic Util­i­ties Com­mis­sion sought the fine and three years of pro­ba­tion after determining the tran­sit agency’s safety rules and pro­ce­dure were in­ad­e­quate. BART will have to pay an ad­di­tional $440,000 if it vi­o­lates terms of its pro­ba­tion, which in­clude tight­en­ing its safety rules and sub­mit­ting more de­tailed safety re­ports.

“Th­ese are se­ri­ous and egre­gious vi­o­la­tions, par­tic­u­larly in view of the fact that they were vi­o­la­tions committed by BART’s top level vet­eran man­agers, re­flect­ing BART’s or­ga­ni­za­tional and man­age­ment cul­ture and at­ti­tudes,” the ad­min­is­tra­tive law judge’s de­ci­sion reads.

BART spokes­woman Ali­cia Trost said the tran­sit agency is still de­cid­ing whether to ap­peal. “We put into place safe­guards to min­i­mize hu­man er­ror and brought on ad­di­tional safety-re­lated po­si­tions,” Trost said.

BART has paid the fam­ily of Daniels $300,000 to set­tle a wrong­ful death law­suit. It’s un­known if Shep­pard’s fam­ily has filed a law­suit.

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