The agency that operates the DC Metro systems has been cited for lax workplace safety by Maryland (MD) regulators. The citations stem from a January 2010 incident in which two Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Agency employees died when a maintenance truck backed over them while they were repairing light rail tracks near Metro’s Rockville Red Line station.

DC MetroAccording to WHSV-TV, the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health, or MOSH, charged WMATA with seeting the stage for the railroad injury by failing to provide lookouts for the killed workers, not ensuring the truck had a clear view to its rear, and allowing workers to use different radio frequencies on their communication devices. MOSH announced its findings from a joint investigation with the National Transportation Safety Board just four days after WMATA was cited by the NTSB for a range of maintenance and safety lapses that caused a fatal collision between commuter trains in June 2009. That crash killed nine people and injured more than 70 DC Metro employees and passengers.

WMATA has claimed the MOSH and NTSB findings are inaccurate. For its part, the light rail agency has issued a fact sheet to support its contention that it has been working consistently since last year to improve safety for employees and commuters along its tracks and in its stations. WMATA points in particular to a “rebuilt and expanded Safety Department” and an investment of “$200 million in federal and jurisdictional funding … to make needed equipment and facility repairs.”

While not all deadly accidents and railroad injuries can be prevented, there is no excuse for having as poor a track record on safety as the one WMATA has. I can only hope that the agency’s efforts pay off. Improvements in equipment, operating procedures and long-range investments in safety have been long overdue. They certainly come too late to protect the passengers and workers who lost their lives or suffered serious injuries in the rash of DC Metro accidents that occurred in 2009 and early 2010.