March 18, 2016
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SEPTA: Striving Toward the Summit of Safety

As part of its ongoing efforts to create a safety culture for its staff and riders, Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) recently hosted its second annual Safety Summit attended by 80 senior management employees.

“Being safe is not a one-day pledge,” said SEPTA General Manager Jeffrey D. Knueppel. “It is a year-round priority.” He continued, “You need to ask yourselves: ‘Is safety my first thought at all times?’ ’What do I do when no one is around to ensure I am being safe?’ and ‘Am I willing to tell others that they are being unsafe?’.”

During the day-long session, SEPTA’s chief rail transit, chief surface transit and chief control center officers discussed proactive approaches they have taken to promote safety, such as including tips in managers’ messages to staff, posting safety record signage at shops and depots and using recent developments in the transit safety arena to discuss, review and enhance SEPTA’s policies. “Safety has to permeate an organization. Our business demands it,” said Knueppel.

Carmen Bianco, a consultant and former president of MTA New York City Transit, addressed the group on “Building a Robust Safety Culture.” He explained that safety concerns do not center on rule compliance, saying, “The new frontier for safety is moving from compliance to commitment. Commitment is when people have the value around ‘I love what I do. I’m going to do the best I can’.”

Bianco stressed that the workforce has to think about consequences, not just outcomes. “People will take shortcuts to get the desired results,” he said. “We have to think about how to eliminate exposure, how to line up behaviors to get the right consequences.”

In the afternoon, small groups of participants brainstormed on solutions to strengthen safety in their workplaces and throughout the authority. SEPTA’s Office of Innovation will form a team that will take the ideas presented at the summit and put them into action.
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