Chicago Sun-Times

Metra expands safety reporting system

9 unions join program after 130 ‘ close calls’

- BY ROSALIND ROSSI Staff Reporter Email: rrossi@suntimes.com Twitter: @rosalindro­ssi

About 130 reports of Metra “close calls” have been made in slightly more than six months since four unions signed a confidenti­al safety reporting agreement, officials said Tuesday as they announced an expansion of the program.

Nine other unions signed on to the “Confidenti­al CloseCall Reporting System” on Tuesday, making Metra the nation’s first commuter railroad to have all its unions agree to report close calls anonymousl­y, without fear of discipline.

The addition of the new unions gives Metra the most comprehens­ive safety reporting system in the nation, officials said.

Under the program, union workers are protected from discipline when they self- report incidents involving safety concerns such as speeding trains, missed signals or passenger doors that open on the wrong side, union and Metra officials said. Not covered are drug and alcohol violations, which cannot be exempt from discipline by Metra or the Federal Railroad Administra­tion.

Although some have called the system a “get out of jail free card,” the FRA views it as a chance to prevent injuries or death, FRA Associate Administra­tor Robert Lauby said before Tuesday’s signing ceremony.

“The FRA sees those 130 [ Metra] reports as safety issues we never would have known about,” Lauby said.

Recommenda­tions on what to do about roughly 130 Metra close- call reports that have been made since Aug. 17 are to be discussed with Metra management for the first time this week.

The anonymous safety reporting system started in the aeronautic­s industry with the FAA, Metra CEO Don Orseno noted.

Currently, a third party — the National Aeronautic­s and Space Administra­tion — accepts “close call” railroad reports, redacts identifyin­g informatio­n, then forwards them to a “peer review” team of labor, Metramanag­ement and FRA officials for recommenda­tions.

Orseno said the anonymous reporting system encourages a culture of safety and has built greater openness between unions and management in discussing safety issues.

“The safer we can be, the better off we’ll all be,” Orseno said.

 ?? | SUN- TIMES FILE PHOTO ?? To improve safety, Metra’s unions have signed on to a confidenti­al system that protects employees when self- reporting most “close call” incidents.
| SUN- TIMES FILE PHOTO To improve safety, Metra’s unions have signed on to a confidenti­al system that protects employees when self- reporting most “close call” incidents.

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