Report: Amtrak Does Not Know Extent of Challenges with its Safety Culture

Amtrak has acknowledged longstanding challenges with its safety culture. However, the railroad does not know the extent of these challenges because it has not established a baseline of its employees’ values, attitudes, and perceptions on safety and safety initiatives.

That is the finding from a new Amtrak Office of Inspector General report.

According to the report, establishing a culture baseline is particularly crucial as Amtrak plans a rollout its federally-mandated System Safety Program Plan, commonly known as the Safety Management System. The company proactively undertook the development of an SMS before the March 2021 regulatory deadline.

Amtrak’s SMS aims to redefine its approach to safety, transitioning from a system that reacts to results with punitive actions to identify risks and mitigate them before they occur.

Without a baseline of employees’ values, attitudes, and perceptions on safety, it will be difficult for Amtrak to measure whether SMS will achieve the intended results.

The OIG recommended Amtrak develop and deploy an employee survey to establish a measurable safety culture baseline and use the results to measure its progress in changing its safety culture over time. The approach is especially important given the significant investment the company is making in its SMS, the report said.

The OIG identified prior research by the US Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration that captured 10 elements of a strong safety culture that Amtrak could use in developing the survey.

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