NTSB blames poor safety culture for deadly Amtrak crash

NTSB blames poor safety culture for deadly Amtrak crash
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Federal investigators ripped Amtrak on Tuesday for its poor safety culture, which the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed for a deadly train crash that killed two workers near Philadelphia last year.

The safety board held a hearing in Washington to discuss the probable cause of the incident, in which an Amtrak engineer struck a piece of construction equipment parked on the tracks.

The train derailed, killing two employees who were working on the track bed and injuring dozens of passengers.

The engineer said he pulled the emergency brake as soon as he spotted the backhoe sitting on the track. The train, which was going 106 mph in an area where the speed limit was 110 mph, hit the equipment six seconds later.


Toxicology results showed that the engineer tested positive for marijuana, while the deceased maintenance workers tested positive for morphine, codeine and oxycodone.

During the hearing, the NTSB slammed Amtrak for failing to randomly drug test employees, consistently use safety equipment and ensure communication among its employees during shift changes — all of which the panel said could have prevented the fatal crash.

“Amtrak’s safety programs were deficient and failed to provide effective first-line safety oversight,” the NTSB report said. “The lack of consistent knowledge and vision for safety across Amtrak’s management created a culture that facilitated and enabled unsafe work practices by employees.”

Federal investigators said that Amtrak did not effectively ensure that its workers were drug-free while performing their public transportation duties by failing to implement a random drug-testing program for maintenance-of-way employees.

“The participation of the two roadway workers in the pool for random testing might have deterred them from using cocaine and opiates,” the report said.

Earlier this week, the Department of Transportation finalized a rule requiring opioid testing for transportation workers.

Officials said that there was a lack of communication and an inadequate transfer of job site responsibilities between workers during their shift change. Amtrak was letting maintenance crew clean the tracks but failed to ensure that trains were not using those tracks.

The NTSB also criticized Amtrak for not consistently using supplemental shunting devices, which would have prevented the oncoming train from entering the tracks where employees were working.

“Had the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) required shunting ... the accident would not have occurred,” the report said.

The safety board is recommending that the FRA require shunting and that Amtrak establish a safety management system program and develop a method to ensure that on-track protection in an active work zone is not lost during shift transfers.