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DC Bus Drivers Forced To Pee In Bottles, Union Boss Says

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A leader for the union that represents bus drivers and train operators in the Washington Area said the drivers are frequently forced to urinate in bottles while on the bus because there is nowhere else to go.

During the second day of testimony before a panel of experts from the National Transportation Safety Board regarding a fatal January smoke incident that occurred in a train tunnel, Amalgamated Transit Union Chief Safety Officer James Madaras brought up some unexpected issues, WAMU reported.

Madaras said the union is constantly battling with Metro management to ensure drivers have time to relieve themselves and a place to do it and they shouldn’t get in trouble if they don’t have access to a bathroom.

“Urinating on a bus is an issue that we deal with on a regular basis, and the reason it occurs is because there are not sufficient bathroom locations for the operators to relieve themselves in a dignified manner,” he said.

The comment came after a line of questioning from the NTSB about safety concerns involving the disciplining of Metro employees who break the rules, The Washington Post reported.

Madaras said that outside of criminal activity, employees should not face discipline if they are reported through the agency’s anonymous close-call reporting system.

“Some operators don’t have the facilities to use,” he said. “Are you going to discipline a person for urinating when there is no facility for them to go? What are we supposed to do?”

In May, D.C.’s delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton, sent a letter to the Department of Labor about the lack of bathroom access, and said the transit system has to replace “urine-soiled” drivers seats on a regular basis.

“Drivers have developed conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, urinary tract infections, dehydration, and fatigue,” Norton said in the letter. “Studies show that when drivers are in extreme need of a restroom, there can be negative impacts on basic cognitive functions similar to a person who has not slept or who has consumed multiple alcoholic beverages.”

Norton requested an OSHA investigation into the matter, and noted that the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries already fined its transit system $3,500 for not providing enough restrooms to employees and for disciplining drivers who were late after visiting bathrooms.

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