How Transit Agencies Can Implement the FTA’s Safety Management System

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In a recent blog post, we highlighted key aspects relating to the Public Transportation Safety Program.

In this post, we will take a closer look at the Safety Management System (SMS) approach outlined in the FTA’s proposed rule.

The SMS approach is intended to help define internal processes and ensure that each public transportation agency, regardless of size or service environment, has the adequate organizational structures, accountabilities, policies, and procedures in place to effectively manage and mitigate safety events. In proposing a SMS approach, the FTA hopes to provide a set of decision-making tools that will help transit agencies prioritize and integrate safety into all aspects of the transit system’s activities, from planning to design, to construction, to operations, and to maintenance.

The proposed FTA rule would require any public transportation system receiving federal funding to implement SMS. –Tweet This!

This approach consists of four main pillars:

Safety Management Policy

A policy, facilitated by a trained Safety Officer, that outlines performance targets based on the FTA’s safety criteria and state of good repair standards. The FTA will require that the board of directors, or equivalent entity, approve the agency safety plan as well as any future iterations.

Safety Risk Management

A plan to identify and evaluate safety risks throughout all elements of the public transportation system. As well as strategies to minimize exposure to hazards and unsafe conditions for the public, personnel, and property.

Safety Assurance

A process and timeline for conducting an annual review and update of the safety plan.

Safety Promotion

A comprehensive staff training program for the operations personnel directly responsible for the safety of the recipient.

The four pillars of the SMS approach are derived from three decades of safety history within the public transportation sector and consider how management processes, integrated data analysis, and organizational culture can contribute to the way public transit operators approach risk management.

Although the basis for the SMS framework is outlined by the FTA, transit agencies still have flexibility when establishing internal processes and activities to address safety risks. This approach provides the foundation to ensure the public transportation industry moves beyond reactive safety activities, which typically involve tacking incidents after they have occurred, to activities that proactively work to identify and prevent factors that may result in safety incidents.


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