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Strengthening Safety Through Training

At the American Public Transportation Association’s Bus & Paratrnasit Conference last week current trends and challenges were addressed in sessions that covered all of the hot topics in public transportation today.

One of many engaging sessions was “Strengthening Safety Culture Through Training,” which was led by moderator Jamie Becerra, director of safety & security, with Foothill Transit. It focused on how managers can find ways for staff to not only understand what a safety culture entails, but to also fully embrace it and hold others accountable to it moving forward.

Diana Byrnes, substance abuse management specialist, Center for Urban Transportation Research/College of Engineering, talked about important considerations when developing an in-house training program.

Delivering a consistent message with actual safety practices, addressing the “what ifs,” and bridging the gap between upper management and operations are three of the points to remember.

Also, there are a number of learning styles and it is important to have blended learning: combing a variety of learning styles to ensure the message is reached by everyone. The three most common learning styles are: tactile, which learn best from doing things like competitive games or role-playing; auditory, which learn best from lectures or discussions; or visual, which learn best from demonstrations, handouts, videos and images.

Just some of the hot training topics right now include distracted driving awareness, fatigue awareness, effects of over-the-counter and prescription medications, and accident investigation to determine the necessity of drug and alcohol testing.

Byrnes offered some creative examples to kick training up a notch. A website developed in cooperation with the Florida Department of Transportation and the USDOT’s Transportation Safety Institute and produced by the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research, Curbing Transit Operator Distracted Driving, includes training products that can be used as a resource for public transportation agencies to teach employees about the dangers and consequences of driving distracted.

Another option she talked about were impairment goggles, which are great for role-playing exercises as they give someone the perspective of being under the influence. It lets people see – and experience – the impact of impairment.

The audience for the session also got to play a bit of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. While we only “played” one question, it was fun to see everyone laugh and perk up a bit with the all-to-familiar music play with Regis Philbin’s voice telling us to play. She said there are numerous programs online for these types of game show programs where you can customize questions to fit your program.

And she stressed that all of these role-playing exercises really help with the “what if” scenarios.
FAAC Inc. Transit Bus Specialist Louis Maiello presented Five Absolute Necessities in a Transit Bus Operator’s Training Program.

A daily standardized skill set that includes criterion-based curriculum as part of the classroom training is important and should be last. Otherwise, those that don’t drive well don’t go through the entire program and put the time, effort and cost of all this training only to find out in the end, that they’re not going to get the driving part.

An effective train-the-trainer program is important because after the initial training, the ones that are going to familiarize these new operators on the routes have to be an extension of what the trainer does. Are those secondary trainers following all instructions and protocols?

Supplemental training tools can expose the students in a controlled environment.

Corrective action and refresher training keep things fresh and training for the No. 1 reason for collision of the previous year must be implemented. Maiello said there should be a new No. 1 every year or you’re not addressing your issues.

A post-training program is crucial so that you can establish a hire-to-retire philosophy. All operators should be seen at least once a year for refresher info and for a pat on the back once in a while. The hands-on management-operator interaction is important.

For the final day, Maiello said there need to be automatic disqualifiers, possibly including things such as curb jumping, heavy braking or excessive speeding. Each agency needs to consider what is it they will or will not tolerate on the final day. “If that potential operator were stopping in front of your house, would you let your family get on?”

Maiello ended his presentation commenting on a topic that hits everyone: funding. “Tell your management, you can pay me now for training or you can pay me later for the funeral of that person run over by the rear wheel.”

Operator Development – A New Approach was presented by Christian DeVoll, integrated risk management specialist with the Washington State Transit Insurance Pool. A complete off-the-shelf course with 29 modules for fixed-route and paratransit was being incorporated into the current safety programs at about 25 transit agencies in Washington.

DeVoll’s presentation targeted the point that “why” is as important as “what” is taught.

He told the story of a bus incident from 2010 where a bus struck five pedestrians between the ages of 18 and 22 in a crosswalk in Portland and two of those died at the scene. Danielle Sale, 22, from Vancouver, was one that died under the vehicle.

Her father, David Sale, was invited to the studio where the safety modules were being produced and he did an interview which was used in three of the modules: safety, customer service and pedestrian awareness. It brought a “real” awareness to each of those segments.

DeVoll said he presented the modules to the trainers at a meeting. He shared David’s story and then afterward, introduced David who was sitting amongst the trainers. “You could hear a pin drop,” he said.

David talked about why this important and why he has been involved. And then, at the session, we learned that David was in the room with us. He has joined the company that produces the modules.

It is easy to become complacent, DeVoll said. “Focus on how we affect people’s lives.”

Susan Murphy, principal consultant, Behavioral Science Technology, Inc. talked about how to improve your organization’s ability to prevent life-altering injuries. She said they’re challenging the paradigm of the Heinrich triangle: H. W. Heinrich’s theory that implies a specific ratio exists between various levels of severity of accidents.

As injuries increase in severity, the frequency goes down. The theory is, reduce exposure to injury – reduce the base of the pyramid – and the whole thing shrinks. It implies one injury reduction strategy will reach all types equally, but current data does not support that old thought-process.

Murphy stressed that exposure is not equal and pointed out that 71 percent of serious injuries or fatalities are related to “safety absolutes” – such things that mandate firing, such as distracted driving.

Improving Your Organization’s Ability to Prevent Life-Altering Injuries & Catastrophic Events
The “injury iceberg,” AKA the Heimrich triangle. They’re challenging that paradigm.
As injuries increase in severity, the frequency goes down. Reduce exposure, reduce the base of the iceberg and the whole thing shrinks. One injury reduction strategy will reach all types equally, but the data does not support this. That’s the old thought-procuess. Which implies that the potential outcomes for injuries are the same. But, exposure is not equal.
71 percent of serious or fatality are related to safety absolutes (absolutes equal things that are mandatory firiings, such as distracted driving)