Job Safety

October 6, 2008

Inattention at Metrolink

The Metrolink accident in Chatsworth, California last month cost 25 lives. The question is why. What can be done now.

Immediate after the fact accident reports can often focus a single error. In this case the text-messaging engineer seems to have been at fault. But experience shows that safety failures come from system failures not as a consequences of one person’s actions. System redundancies and other measures will have to be examined to get a true picture of what happened.

Nevertheless, as safety expert Barry Sweedler points out that, it does demonstrate the importance of alertness and situational awareness. We need a systems approach but we also need to be aware of how much responsibility can rest on the shoulders of one man.

Sweedler said that 90 percent of the roughly 3,000 rail accidents reported each year are caused by human error: drug use, fatigue, inattentiveness, miscommunication.