Metro News Release

For immediate release: November 18, 2005

Metro safety panel rules human error caused track worker’s death

Human error was the primary cause in the death of a Metro track worker last month, a panel of safety and rail officials determined. Metro has taken a series of steps to enhance safety in light of the findings, including firing the employee’s supervisor.

Michael Waldron, 47, of Riverdale, Md., was sideswiped by a Yellow Line train near the Braddock Road station in Alexandria, Va., on Oct. 1 while bending down to pick up a piece of equipment. He died 14 days later.

"Various safety procedures were not followed during the track work project," said Fred Goodine, assistant general manager for system safety and risk protection. "For example, the track and structures and systems maintenance supervisor failed to contact the operations control center before approaching the track work area. He later left the work area, failing to ensure a safe work site for the crew at the time of the accident."

Also, train operators are supposed to sound a horn to warn track workers the train is approaching and stop if they don’t receive acknowledgment that it was heard. The panel ruled that two train operators, including the one that hit Waldron, did not follow those procedures.

"Those operators will be disciplined for not following those procedures," said Steve Feil, chief operating officer of rail. "But the main fault still lies with the dismissed supervisor for not notifying his crew of the oncoming train or the operations control center of their location."

Employees also are trained to maintain a distance from a passing train. The panel also determined the crew could have taken a safer path to the work site.

Metro managers are taking steps to prevent against such accidents. They include:

Additional safety training is being arranged, including training related to this fatality for 3,600 rail operations employees, beginning today.

Rail managers are reevaluating speed restrictions and requiring the use of flags by personnel as a warning that a train is approaching when trains are sharing one track near a work area.

Train operators will be reviewing the operating rules for sounding the horn and stopping.

Employees working on the tracks are required to wear hard hats.

Waldron’s supervisor, who Metro officials are not identifying for personnel reasons, has been assigned to administrative duties since the accident. The 20-year Metro employee was fired today.

"This is a sad time for us. Had employees followed proper procedures, this unfortunate accident wouldn’t have happened," Goodine said.

Waldron was hired by Metro in 2002 to work on bridges, tunnels and other structures. The internal investigation determined he was hit by a train headed toward Huntington just after 4 p.m. Waldron was working on a project to drill drainage holes in a retaining wall.

The last time a Metro employee died on the job was in 2001 when a transit police officer was shot in the line of duty. Prior to that, in September 1997, a track worker was electrocuted after he made contact with the 750-volt third rail in a Red Line tunnel near the Bethesda station. He was performing routine maintenance when he slipped and hit the third rail.



News release issued on November 18, 2005.