Best Practices Spotlight Archive

Safety Best Practices

December 2014

Safety First sign outside the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), every 12 minutes there is a fatal motor vehicle crash, every 10 seconds an injury occurs, and every 5 seconds a crash occurs. As bad as crashes are, they're only one of the safety concerns that transit operators and other employees face every day. 

Programs and practices that emphasize safety not only save lives and stop injuries, but also save money and resources, so it's not hard to see why safety procedures are embraced at transit agencies across the country.  

Ideas and initiatives that can help make safety a priority include:

 Explicit procedures for dealing with a variety of situations
•  Making it clear that it's a management priority
 Continuing education or training
 Employee buy-in through engagement
 Accountability and accurate reporting and measurement

Sharing best practices between transit systems can also help by spreading ideas that are proven to work. Here are some innovative practices at small transit systems around the country:

Distributing information to everyone who needs it is a vital part of the effort to keep employees and passengers safe. Catch-A-Ride of Dillsboro, IN, has implemented an information-sharing program that dispenses flyers with safety tips to drivers every other month – or more often if necessary. "Each flyer has a different theme; some are relevant to the weather (tornado season, winter weather, etc.) and others are related to defensive driving, a recent issue, or a topic suggested by a staff member," said Erin Thomas, Director of Catch-A-Ride. It's especially helpful if operators can use their own experiences to suggest what information they think others might need to know.

Documenting safety concerns is also an important step in addressing them. Having forms that are both easy to use and accessible is necessary to encourage people to actually use them when there is a safety concern. Harford Transit LINK, of Harford County, MD, created a form with the goal of making it easy to use and fill out correctly, thereby increasing usage for notification of accidents and fuel spills. It also combined the notification form with the chain of command contact information, so that all of the pertinent information is in one place, and can be accessed immediately. "We print these two forms on front and back so that if a Dispatcher receives a call they only have to pull out one form and flip to the appropriate side to begin filling out the important information," explained Jim Ports, Administrator for Harford Transit.

Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority's  Right to Know Center.

Speaking of documentation, the Cape Cod Regional Transit Authority in Massachusetts has gone the extra mile to make sure that employees at their vehicle maintenance facility who come into contact with potentially harmful chemicals know what to do. The Right to Know Center is set up so that not only are the Safety Data Sheets (SDS), formerly Material Safety Data Sheets, easily accessible in a binder, they also have containers of many of the products used at the maintenance facility on display, with the SDS for the product below it. This allows anyone who comes in contact with the product in a dangerous way to make a quick visual identification of the bottle instead of having to remember the name and dig through the SDS binder. It also serves as a daily reminder that the products can be harmful and need to be handled safely.  

Creating partnerships with other organizations or agencies can be a great way to provide safety services, too. The Fresno County Rural Transit Agency in California recently implemented a safety and security program for their transit services that involves having uniformed police officers board buses at designated stops and make visual observations while maintaining a physical presence to both the driver and passengers. "This is very cost effective and also provides a collaboration with our rural member agencies which are the local Cities. We hope to continue this program in the future and hope to expand on this opportunity with joint safety training and emergency response activities," said Moses Stites, General Manager of the Fresno County Rural Transit Agency.

Mr. Jackie Herbert was awarded one of the first awards in May, 2014, for helping to save the life of a bus passenger in cardiac arrest.  He's pictured with Sean Finerty and Deputy Chief Mark Allston of the New Castle County paramedics.

Recognizing employees who demonstrate a safety conscious attitude and promote a positive safety culture is important, and can give employees a concrete benefit to work toward. The Delaware Transit Corporation has recently begun a "Safety Certificate of Recognition" program that allows supervisors and others within the organization to nominate employees who have shown an exceptional commitment to safety.

The program has recognized employees for actions such as notifying the safety committee of suspicious packages and weapons found near or on vehicles during pre-trip inspections, helping reunite a lost child with his family, using the vehicle's hand held fire extinguisher to control a fire on the deck of a home on the route, and working as a team to render assistance to several people stranded on an Interstate for several hours during rush hour. 

Mr. Jackie Herbert was awarded one of the first awards in May, 2014, for helping to save the life of a bus passenger in cardiac arrest by notifying authorities quickly. He's pictured at left with Sean Finerty, Safety and Security Manager, and Deputy Chief Mark Allston of the New Castle County paramedics.

Key to this program is not only awarding certificates for good safety practices, but doing it publicly. Explained Sean Finerty, "Certificates are presented during graduation ceremonies for new operators, which pushes the idea of safety in the organization all the way down to the newest employee." Communication and cooperation are key components to any safety practice. A willingness to embrace new ideas can go a long way in ensuring that a transit system is as safe as it can be.