Metro managers created 'toxic' culture that puts riders at risk: analysis

Metro managers created 'toxic' culture that puts riders at risk: analysis
© Greg Nash

A third-party audit of Metro indicates the Washington, D.C.-area transportation system’s management created a “toxic workplace culture” that puts riders at risk.

“[Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC)] management contributes to a chaotic environment. Use of profanities, threats and racial, sexual or other forms of harassment are regular features of the control center’s environment, which makes it difficult for controllers to do their jobs and drives low morale and significant turnover,” states the 50-page report from the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission.

The audit also found management has manipulated safety investigations by influencing employee statements. It also found incidents of managers threatening controllers who questioned orders that violated existing rules.

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“Controllers see some safety problems as so prevalent that they do not see any value in reporting the issues over and over again,” the report states. “For example, there are areas where speed commands continue to drop out due to Metrorail management’s repeated failures to ensure that issues are addressed.”

“Metrorail must ensure that any and all deficiencies are promptly and properly reported, tracked and repaired as required ... to reduce the risk that safety issues slip through the cracks,” it adds.

The report also found issues with training, recruitment and retention, as well as the ROCC’s fatigue risk management procedures. While official protocols limit controller shifts to 12 hours while working no more than six days a week, “several controllers reported exceeding those limits,” according to the report.

It found incidents in January, February and March of this year in which controllers worked seven days in a row or more. In April, May and June of this year, there were controllers who worked 26, 28 and 29 consecutive days.

As a corrective action, the report calls on Metro to “ensure that hours of service, required rest periods, and related policies are followed and that those requirements are clearly communicated to all staff and management.”