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Survey: 15 percent of Metro workers scared to report safety problems

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Local,Transportation,Liz Essley,Metro,Metro and Traffic

Fifteen percent of Metro employees don't feel free to report safety problems without fear of retaliation, a new Metro survey says.

The survey shows Metro still has work to do in building an agencywide safety mindset in the wake of the 2009 Red Line crash and a string of four worker deaths in 2009 and 2010 -- incidents that earned Metro harsh rebuke in a 2010 federal audit.

The survey also found that 53 percent of Metro workers witnessed a "safety violation or concern" in the past year, but only 43 percent reported the problems they saw, agency documents show.

Metro's board is set to tackle the survey results Thursday, even as it receives a report that shows that so far this year the agency hasn't met its goal to keep employee injuries lower than five per 200,000 hours worked. The agency had an average of 5.5 injuries in January, February and March, a new Metro scorecard says.

The employee survey also showed that 13 percent of Metro workers don't feel prepared for an emergency, and 14 percent didn't believe the agency would take "effective action" if they reported a safety violation.

But Metro says it's pleased with the survey results.

"[Metro] believes that having 85 percent of its employees comfortable and knowledgeable about reporting a safety violation or concern is a significant success, especially given the culture of just a few years ago," Metro spokesman Philip Stewart wrote in an email. "It is also worth noting that the percentage of employees reporting favorably in the operations departments was even higher."

Metro is working to fix problems identified in the survey, including rewarding and recognizing top-performing employees and improving communication between departments. The agency in June plans to roll out plans to improve each of its departments.

About 64 percent of employees filled out the survey -- a rate that Metro's contracted survey firm said was above the industry average. Metro got just 18 percent of employees to respond in its last survey, completed about 10 years ago, said Stewart.

Promoting safety is a major topic with Metro's top leadership, but the agency continues to have hiccups even after its attempts at reform. A train narrowly missed hitting two track workers in February, and last year a Metro employee was seriously injured when he was pinned under a rail car for more than an hour.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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