The California Public Utilities Commission announced Thursday that it’s slapping BART with a $1.3 million fine and placing the transit agency on probation for three years for safety violations that led to the deaths of two workers in 2013.
“These fatalities were totally preventable,” said Commissioner Liane M. Randolph, the author of the decision. “Our investigation found numerous and egregious safety violations by BART."
The fine is the largest ever imposed by the CPUC on a public agency for safety violations. The fine will be reduced by half if BART adheres to all safety rules during its probation.
Christopher Sheppard, a 58-year-old BART manager from Hayward, and Laurence Daniels, a 66-year-old contractor from Fair Oaks, were inspecting the tracks between the Walnut Creek and Pleasant Hill stations on Oct. 19, 2013 when they were hit by a train operated by a trainee. The incident occurred during a four-day BART worker strike.
The CPUC’s investigation found that the trainee’s supervisor had violated multiple safety requirements, including using a cell phone on the job and failing to sound the train’s horn as it approached the workers. It also faulted BART for submitting its incident report nearly nine months late.
"We cannot undo the harm to Mr. Sheppard and Mr. Daniels or their families," Randolph said. "What we can do is to make sure that BART makes safety its number one priority now and in the future. By ordering a fine and a probationary period, we intend to do just that.”
In a statement, BART said it's "currently evaluating" the decision and noted that it actively worked with the CPUC and other agencies to "identify and address all potential causes of the accident."
BART said it responded swiftly to the accident by working with an independent association to create and implement new track work procedures and retraining all employees and contractors who might access the tracks.
BART also said it's improved its worker communications system 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."