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BART fined $1.3M for safety violations resulting in worker deaths in 2013

'These fatalities were totally preventable, says CPUC commissioner

The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday issued a $1.3 million fine to BART for safety violations that led to the death of two workers who were struck by a train between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations in 2013.

Along with the fine, the largest the CPUC has ever imposed on a public agency for safety violations, the commission at its meeting in San Francisco on Thursday also placed BART on probation for three years.

Christopher Sheppard, a 58-year-old BART manager from Hayward, and Laurence Daniels, a 66-year-old contractor from Fair Oaks in Sacramento County, were inspecting a dip in the tracks when a train hit and killed them on Oct. 19, 2013, during a four-day strike by BART workers.

No trains were carrying passengers during the strike, but some trains were running for maintenance and training purposes. BART at the time had a safety procedure called "simple approval" in which track employees were responsible for their own safety and had to clear from the tracks within 15 seconds if a train was approaching.

The "simple approval" rule was suspended shortly afterward and later eliminated.

According to the CPUC, the train that hit Sheppard and Daniels was being operated by a trainee operator who was also a BART manager, and was under the supervision of a trainer who was a fellow BART manager.

The CPUC's investigation found that BART that day violated multiple safety rules and requirements, many of which contributed in some manner to the deaths.

The violations included the repeated use of a cellphone by the trainer, failure to sound the train's horn prior to the incident, and failing to provide a timely and adequate investigative report, according to the CPUC.

"These fatalities were totally preventable," CPUC Commissioner Liane Randolph said in a statement. "We cannot undo the harm to Mr. Sheppard and Mr. Daniels or their families, What we can do is to make sure that BART makes safety its number one priority now and in the future."

If BART is in compliance with safety rules during the three-year probationary period, its $1.3 million fine will be decreased by half.

The transit agency must also comply with various orders, including tracking and submitting a report on all violations of safety rules, re-evaluating its current safety training programs, and posting a sign at each station about the CPUC fine.

BART issued a statement in response to the CPUC's decision, saying it is "currently evaluating" it and that the agency "has worked with the CPUC and others to identify and address all potential causes of the accident."

"BART responded swiftly to the accident by abolishing its prior wayside access procedures, working with an independent association to create and implement new wayside access procedures, and retraining all employees and contractors who might access BART's wayside," the statement said.

BART officials said they have put up trackside physical barriers to protect crews and installed $2 million worth of safety barrier fencing.

"Nothing is more important to BART than safety," the statement said. "A safer system for our employees will provide for a safer system for our riders and a better BART."

— Bay City News Service

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