In a press release, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) signed an Implementing Memorandum of Understanding (IMOU) with SMART TD Local 61, BLET and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS). Below is SEPTA’s press release:
PHILADELPHIA (December 12, 2016) – SEPTA, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), SMART United Transportation Union-Local 61 (SMART-UTU) and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today signed an Implementing Memorandum of Understanding (IMOU) for the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS).
As a C3RS site, SEPTA’s railroad conductors and engineers will be able to anonymously report near misses and unsafe conditions without fear of repercussion. SEPTA joins Amtrak, New Jersey Transit, Metra (Chicago), MBTA/Keolis (Boston), Long Island Railroad, Metro North and Strasburg Railroad (Strasburg, Pa) as carriers with C3RS IMOUs.
“Building a strong safety culture is a key organizational goal for SEPTA. We are always exploring ways to expand and enhance our programs,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey Knueppel. “As a C3RS site, we will be made aware of situations that we might not have been previously alerted to so that we can take action to prevent accidents and protect our employees and passengers.”
Under the C3RS system, SEPTA’s engineers and conductors will be able to submit a safety problem or close call online or through U.S. mail to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NASA, acting as an independent third party federal agency, gathers and analyzes all data for C3RS, removes employees’ names and contact information (these are required for the NASA portion of the investigation) and then returns the reports to a peer review team comprised of SEPTA managers, the unions and FRA for review and action.
“We are looking for conditions or close calls other than accidents or injuries that might not otherwise be reported to the FRA,” said SEPTA Assistant General Manager of System Safety Scott Sauer. “We are asking employees to report events that we might not otherwise know about, the warning signs and precursors that could lead to major safety risks and accidents.”
“C3RS, along with PTC [Positive Train Control] implementation, which is nearly complete on SEPTA territory, will greatly improve the safety of our system,” Knueppel said.
“Previously, employees may have been hesitant to report a close call, fearing disciplinary action for themselves or colleagues,” said Sauer. “When NASA returns the report to the peer review team, it is completely scrubbed of any employee information. We never know who submitted the information to NASA.”
Officials from the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), Keolis Commuter Services, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and four labor unions signed an agreement May 8 that would implement a federal close-call reporting system designed to improve safety.
The FRA’s Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) allows any employee to anonymously report safety-related issues or concerns without fear of facing sanctions. The C3RS program is the first of its kind in Massachusetts.
At a ceremony held at Keolis’ Boston headquarters, officials from the American Train Dispatchers Association, Transportation Communications Union, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and SMART Transportation Division joined MBTA, Keolis and FRA representatives to sign the memorandum of understanding to implement the voluntary reporting system.
And the result, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, is a significant reduction in rail workplace derailments that too often lead to serious injury and death — plus, as a bonus, better labor/management relationships and improved operational performance.
We’re talking about four pilot projects called Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS), whose core value is that railroaders don’t intentionally make mistakes, and the most effective means of correcting workplace errors that have the potential to cause death, injury and accidents is to investigate the cause in a non-judgmental environment.
In a review of C3RS pilot projects on Amtrak, Canadian Pacific, New Jersey Transit and Union Pacific, the FRA also determined they result in supervisors becoming “more fair and cooperative” and placing a greater value on safety relative to productivity, fewer discipline cases, and workers more willing to raise safety concerns with management.
C3RS is a collaborative effort involving the FRA, carriers, the UTU and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.
The pilot projects encourage engineers, conductors, trainmen and yardmasters to report — without fear of discipline or FRA enforcement action, even if rules violations are involved — close calls that may have resulted in accidents or injuries.
All C3RS reports by employees are collected anonymously and kept confidential. With names and locations masked, a C3RS peer review team recommends corrective action, such as improved training, changes in physical plant, changes in existing federal safety laws or regulations, changes in carrier operating rules, and improved training and/or education.
Examples of close calls include varying levels of risk, such as leaving pieces of equipment unsecured, improper blocking, operating trains beyond track authority, or violating operating rules.
UTU International Vice President John Previsich spearheads the UTU involvement in the four C3RS pilot projects – systemwide on Amtrak and New Jersey Transit, and at CP’s Portage, Wis., yard, and UP’s North Platte, Neb., yard.
At UP, which has the most experience with C3RS, the pilot project has led to reformatting track warrants so they are easier to read, and with a UP officer observing that C3RS “is helping UP move from a blame culture to one that bridges communication gaps between employees and management.”