Improving Safety Culture in Public Transportation

The news of transit accidents in the last 2 years has been significant and made national headlines, in part because of the human errors that resulted in the accidents and in some cases, fatalities. In at least two of these major accidents, transit operators/transit workers and passengers were either seriously injured or killed. One of the questions to be answered is what is the culture of the working environment where serious accidents occur? Another question is what truly constitutes a culture of safety in a transit agency? "Safety Culture" belies the concept that a culture of safety exists in the transit community. There is some evidence to suggest that safety culture that is ingrained from the boardroom to the rail platform may not exist. There are many different safety programs, some of which are mandated by government organizations and/or groups outside of the immediate transit community. Even where there are collective representative worker organizations, safety programs exist, but not a culture of safety since accidents occur in these situations as well. Is it a legitimate statement to say that a safety culture is defined by top management in the organization, or is it equally legitimate to say the front-line worker defines the safety culture?<span>   Although there has been serious discussion about safety, there has not emerged a concept of how transit organizations design, develop, and implement a "safety culture" resulting in no or few accidents. To define the "ingredients" of an effective transit safety culture, the objective of this research would be to establish the necessary protocols, communication requirements, and best practices for how transit organizations would go about implementing a true safety culture and committing to the willingness of establishing metrics as part of a program. The research may include a review of relevant literature, on a global scale, to identify key elements of what a transit safety culture could "look like"; a survey of selected American transit organizations to aid in identifying key elements of information about transit culture as well as transit safety issues; identification of a policy on safety culture; and a means to track aspects of the safety issues involved with the program to see if the metrics will aid in building the culture, thus reducing the accidents. The research will also identify and evaluate different safety culture and leadership styles. This project is a necessary step in the development of an overall review of what a transit safety culture is and what it means to agencies. The research results would provide guidance for transit agencies in order to build an effective safety culture with metrics to measure its performance and thus minimize accidents. The objective of this research is to develop resources for assessing, improving, and monitoring organization-wide safety culture that promote safety as a core value and top priority throughout public transportation systems. The resources should (1) explain the imperative of an effective safety culture; (2) identify and assess safety culture concepts from within and outside the public transportation sector; and (3) present organizational models, processes, and pragmatic strategies for assessing, improving, and monitoring the safety performance and safety culture of public transportation systems.


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Funding: $500000.00
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project A-35

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Schwager, Dianne

  • Start Date: 20101015
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 0
  • Source Data: RiP Project 25247

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01461678
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project A-35
  • Files: TRB, RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 1:50PM