"The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) is the independent railway accident investigation organisation for the UK. It investigates railway accidents and incidents on the UK's railways to improve safety, not to establish blame."
As previously noted, railways (that's what they're called in Britain. Perhaps the Senator forgot that Connecticut is historically part of New England, rather than olde England) in Britain are the safest railways in the European Union. British railways also have extensive experience with close-call confidential reporting.
Putting this one and that one together, I submitted an enquiry (that's how it's spelled, some of the time, in olde England) to RAIB regarding the application of C3RS protections to railway employees who commit operating rule violations.
Incurable optimist that I am, I think the experience of the safest railways in the EU might be of interest, and importance, to US railroads and its regulator considering such coverage.
RAIB replied with dispatch, and never being one to NOT say "I told you so," I told you so:
Dear Mr Schanoes
Thank you for your email.
We, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) require the industry to notify us of the types of accidents or incidents identified in the schedules to the Railways (Accident Investigation and Reporting) Regulations 2005. This includes ‘near miss’ reporting (Schedule 1(9) - An accident or incident which under slightly different conditions might have led to a death, serious injury or extensive damage to rolling stock, the infrastructure or the environment).
On a daily basis, we monitor the industry’s 24 hour operating logs to identify if there are any events that we think should have been notified to us but were not and we will seek further information about these. We do sometimes get notified of incidents by staff (whistle blowing) and also by members of the public. In these cases we will try to find out the facts from the industry, without giving any information about our source, and where appropriate ask the industry to explain why they did not notify the incident to us. Where appropriate, we may start an investigation...
...the industry itself investigates all instances of signals passed at danger as the signaller records these and will take action to stop any train involved in such an incident...
The UK railway industry does not have any such system by which an employee reporting a violation within a certain period of time provides them with protection from any disciplinary action.
We do not normally deal with incidents where the cause was clearly due to someone failing to comply with the rules or procedures as the safety recommendation would only be to ‘comply’.
CIRAS is a totally independent Confidential Reporting scheme for transport across the UK and it provides the means by which railway employees can raise issues of concern that are then brought to the attention of the relevant company by CIRAS. CIRAS then provides a personal response to the employee. Some of the issues with wider interest are then promulgated via the CIRAS newsletter. A similar system operates for the UK’s air transport.
I hope this information is of assistance to you.
RAIB Administration Team
Indeed, the information is of great assistance to me, and hopefully to those conversant with and responsible for safe train operations. I'm especially fond of the part that says "the safety recommendaton would only be to comply."
So...what I would like to know is how did this myth that protecting employees who commit violations of the vital operating rules of railroads enhances safety ever get started? Where is the data supporting such a risky assertion? Where is there evidence from operation of an actual railway, or railways, or railroad, or railroads that such a program has the slightest bit of validity?
November 7, 2014
This space for rent.