Safety First

This manhole was left this way for weeks.  It is just north of the platform at Twinbrook:

I’m guessing that if Metro had to comply with OSHA regs this would be a FAIL.

This was the response to us reporting it being open.  See?  All better now.

Kind of scary:

There are several manholes that have been left open like this (or partially open) on the Red line, and presumably other lines as well.

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4 Responses to Safety First

  1. Ted K. says:

    Some questions (for each open manhole) :
    1) Why is the manhole being left open ?
    2) Where’s the work order for the associated project ?
    3) Where’s the safety alert / yellow tag* for this hazard ?
    4) Where’s the weather shroud to keep rain / snow out ?

    Your pictures seem to show a 110VAC sump pump (extension cord to the right, exhaust hose to the left). I hope that there is a GFI box near the lip of the manhole. I’m used to seeing telco crews erecting a low safety cage around their manholes which also provides an attachment point / strain relief for whatever extends down into the pit. Here in California pictures like yours would get a transit agency nailed for negligence due to the agency not being reasonable & prudent.
    A railfan

    * Yellow = caution. Red tags are reserved for out-of-service gear.

    • Hi TK,

      Thanks for your comment.

      1) Good question. I know it’s a cliche but, it’s not (or wasn’t) my department. If I had to guess I would say out of laziness.
      2) There may have been a W/O opened but Automatic Train Control (ATC) would not be aware of it.
      3) Safety alert? This is Metro. Seriously, Metro does use red tags for shutting down third rail power but to the best of my knowledge they do not use yellow tags.
      4) Weather shroud? What do think this is, the capital of the United States of America? 😉

      You are correct about the 110VAC sump pump. No GFI anywhere in the area though. The extension cord is plugged into a standard outlet at the north end of the platform. Since I was not in the Power Dept. I can’t say for sure that the outlet in question was not protected by a GFI breaker but I seriously doubt it. In 27 years I never saw a safety cage used around open manholes.

      WMATA truly is “The 51st State”. There is no oversight. None with any teeth anyway. Metro is typically the antithesis of ‘reasonable and prudent’. If Metro operated in CA perhaps many of my coworkers who were recently killed by Metro would still be alive.

      • Ted K. says:

        OW ! No GFI ? No tag or card with the work order # on it ? How can a passerby (line crew, supervisor, or inspector) backtrack the situation ? I know, rhetorical questions, about an agency that doesn’t have a safe & sane culture. This is mind boggling to a techie who’s worked in the aviation and finance industries where an audit trail is vital.

        P.S. By “audit trail” I don’t mean just CYA paperwork. I’m including things like a warning tag on an open engine shroud that says that the engine is out-of-service and waiting for a part. That way somebody knows not to close the shroud and try to put the engine back into service. It also serves to let interested parties track the duration of the open access panel (a few hours, a few days, A FEW WEEKS ?!, etc.). I suspect that this kind of tagging got its start several centuries back in mines with chalk marks on damaged equipment (e.g. an “X” vs. “OK”).

  2. The department I was in, Automatic Train Control (ATC) uses what are called “Blue Tags” for the purpose you describe. For example, if a “speed restriction” (a reduced speed command in a track circuit) is installed, a blue tag is supposed to be placed on the track module as a record of who installed the restriction, why the speed restriction is in place, the date, time, and the person requesting the restriction.

    ATC also uses “Yellow Tags” to identify tools and equipment that are faulty or need calibration.

    I can’t speak for other departments, but I don’t recall seeing anything that looked like a tag on equipment belonging to them. Of course, we would have no reason to enter a COMM room or Power substation. They may very well use a similar system, but other departments clearly do not.

    As for the lack of a GFI outlet, what can I say? It’s Metro. “We don’t need no stinkin’ National Electric Code (NEC). We make our own rules!”

    On a more serious note, I recall an incident where a child was electrocuted (killed) on Metro property because a cover plate was missing from an electrical box, or the base of a light pole.

    There were (are?) several light poles at the Glenmont (B10) station that were severely corroded. The covers were either missing or held on with electrical tape. I reported them but the last time I checked nothing had been done.

    On the other hand, I found a floor mounted brass outlet with the cover missing at Grosvenor (A11), reported it, and it was fixed within 24 hours.

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