Confidential close call reporting on Amtrak

September 13, 2010

The UTU’s fourth Federal Railroad Administration sponsored risk-reduction pilot project, known as “Confidential Close Call Reporting System” (C3RS), has been formalized in a memorandum of understanding among the UTU, Amtrak and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

 As its name implies, the pilot project permits conductors, engineers, trainmen and yardmasters to report — voluntarily, confidentially and without fear of carrier discipline or FRA enforcement action — close call events that might have resulted in an accident or injury.
Examples of close calls include varying levels of risk, such as leaving pieces of equipment unsecured, improper blocking, operating trains beyond track authority, or violating operating rules.

The close call events will be reported confidentially to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which has years of experience with similar risk-reduction projects. NASA will mask the identity of those involved before passing on the information for collaborative study among regional peer review teams selected from carrier management, the FRA, the UTU and the BLET.

The regional peer review teams will strive to identify risks that might be reduced or eliminated through corrective action, such as improved training, changes in physical plant, changes in existing federal safety laws or regulations, or changes in carrier operating rules.

The Amtrak Confidential Close Call Reporting System will be implemented nationwide at most Amtrak yard operations.

The UTU already is engaged in pilot confidential close call reporting projects with New Jersey Transit, systemwide; Union Pacific at North Platte, Neb.; and Canadian Pacific at Portage, Wis.

“Non-punitive reporting produces safety data that could not otherwise be obtained while helping to identify and mitigate risks before another serious incident occurs,” said UTU International Vice President John Previsich, who helped negotiate the Amtrak Confidential Close Call Reporting System memorandum of understanding on behalf of the UTU.

Previsich recognized the support and leadership, in their territories, of UTU General Chairpersons Roger Lenfest (GO 769) and Robert Keeley (GO 342).

UTU International President Mike Futhey praised Amtrak President Joseph Boardman for “his hands-on involvement and commitment in expanding this project nationwide on Amtrak.”

Separately, Amtrak has initiated another safety project — the Safe-2-Safer program — which examines Amtrak’s operating culture to identify improved leadership practices and workplace behavior that can improve workplace safety.