State fines BART for workers’ track deaths

California’s workplace safety agency issued citations totaling $210,000 to BART for violations in connection with an incident last October when a BART train struck and killed two workers.

Cal/OSHA cited BART for three violations that included not having qualified workers to perform work on the electric rails, a BART driver trainer not having a clear view of the track while instructing a trainee and for having “inadequate” procedures for employees working on the tracks.

Christopher D. Sheppard, a BART special projects manager and Laurence E. Daniels, a contracting and consulting, were both working on the electrified track on Oct. 19 when they were killed by a BART train.

BART at the time was not running because of an operator strike, but were running non-revenue vehicles.

Cal/OSHA documents said BART failed to have qualified electrical workers performing track work on that day. The work performed exposed Sheppard and Daniels to an energized 1000 Volt conductor.

BART is also being cited for not following procedures when training new operators.

The four-car train that struck Sheppard and Daniels near the Pleasant Hill station was being operated by an inexperienced trainee.  Cal/OSHA said that the trainer — a high-ranking BART manager — sat with other managers in the passenger area instead of near the trainee.

Cal/OSHA cites that the manager was still able to see the trainee, but not able to closely view the trainee’s actions and observe the track.

The third violation involves BART’s “simple approval” procedure, which Cal/OSHA said is not adequate and was not even followed that day.

The procedure calls for one worker to lookout for oncoming trains while working on the tracks. Cal/OSHA said Sheppard and Daniels had no warnings of the oncoming train and neither of them performed the duties to lookout for trains.

The transit agency was previously cited by Cal/OSHA in 2001 and 2008 involving employees fatally injured while working under the “simple approval” rule.

Since the 2013 incident, the rule for track work was suspended by BART.

BART’s General Manager Grace Crunican said in statement that the transit agency is working on safety enhancements and procedures for passengers and employees:

“The BART family has spent the past six months mourning the loss of Christopher D. Sheppard and Laurence E. Daniels while making permanent changes to our safety procedures.  Passenger and employee safety is our top priority at BART.”

She said BART has already implemented an enhanced wayside program and a proposed $5 million investment into safety programs.

Crunican also said that BART has “embraced” comprehensive safety rail regulations by the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates rail transit.

There is also a report by National Transportation Safety Board still being finalized. She said they will work with the CPUC on any recommendations from the safety board.

BART has 15 working days to file an appeal with Cal/OSHA.

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