The California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates rail transit safety, issued its largest fine ever to a public agency Thursday when the commission voted to fine BART $1.3 million and place the agency under probation for three years in regards to the death of two workers in 2013.
On October 19, 2013, Christopher D. Sheppard, a BART special projects manager and Laurence E. Daniels, an engineer and consultant, were struck by a train while inspecting the track between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations.
Most BART trains were not running during that time due to an operator strike. But a train not in revenue service — and operated by a BART manager being trained by another manager — struck and killed the two workers.
The CPUC said the transit agency violated a number of safety provisions that could have prevented the incident, including frequent use of the trainee’s cell phone, the failure of the trainer to supervise the trainee, failure to sound the train’s horn to warn Sheppard and Daniels, failure to comply with the transit agency’s own safe clearance rule, and failure to provide a adequate and timely report that was 262 days late.
Commissioner Liane M. Randolph, who wrote the commission’s decision, said the incident was preventable:
“Our investigation found numerous and egregious safety violations by BART. We cannot undo the harm to Mr. Sheppard and Mr. Daniels or their families. What we can do is to make sure that BART makes safety its number one priority now and in the future. By ordering a fine and a probationary period, we intend to do just that.”
During the three-year probation period, BART must track and submit a report to the CPUC of all violations related to safety rules, policies, practices and procedures with details of corrective actions and any disciplinary actions.
BART will need to reevaluate its safety training programs and develop and implement an annual safety refresher course for managers and senior employees.
The transit agency will also need to post a sign at each station that the CPUC has fined the transit agency of $1.3 million. The fine may get cut in half if the transit agency complies with the CPUC’s orders.
BART said on its website that they are currently looking at the decision made by the CPUC.
Since the incident, BART said it has put forth a Roadway Worker Protection Program, which entails three-way communications with the operator, wayside workers and control center.
BART has also reduced train speeds near work areas and also put an “employee in charge” when crews are working on the tracks along with a watch person. BART said it always has a watch person when crews are working on the track.
In addition, the transit agency has spent $2 million putting up physical barriers to protect maintenance crews while on the track.
CPUC President Michael Picker said in a statement:
“BART must improve its safety culture and ensure that every single one of its employees realizes the responsibility they have to serve the public safely. I intend to speak to the BART Board directly to reiterate the orders we made today.