Report: Track workers’ culture encourages safety violations

By · Published in 2007

After a thorough review, New York City Transit has released two reports about the deaths in April of track workers who were struck by trains. The reports were highly critical of the organizational culture of the track workers and blamed the deaths on safety standards that are ignored at work sites across the system.

The New York Times has more on the two reports:

The reports delivered a broad indictment of safety practices on the subway tracks, and called for discipline to be considered for three of the supervisors involved, along with a major overhaul of safety procedures.

In one of the accidents, a report said, workers carried heavy equipment across live tracks without covering the electrified third rail or setting up warning lights to alert oncoming trains. In the same accident, the report said, a supervisor assured the two workers he would act as a flagman, watching for trains, and then left his post. Moments later, one worker was dragged under a train and died, and another was seriously injured when he was pinned between the train and a wall.

Howard Roberts, president of New York City Transit, voiced his concerns about the approach to safety on the rails. “There are some major barriers, the primary one being cultural, that we have to figure out how to handle,” he said. “In many cases people do not follow the rules and consider the rules in some cases not to be particularly pertinent to how they see themselves as getting the work done.”

The more critical of the two reports examined Marvin Franklin’s death by the wheels of a G train at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station. According to that report (PDF here), one of the work supervisors did not maintain his position as Franklin helped carry equipment over live tracks.

The other report (PDF here) noted that the work supervisors didn’t even know the proper safety procedures for ensuring that the tracks are cleared before sending workers across. In this incident, Daniel Boggs was killed by an 3 train on the downtown express tracks in Manhattan at a time when he thought there were no more express trains that night.

In all likelihood, the work supervisors will be disciplined, and the MTA has already instituted a whole slew of new safety measures. The MTA has issued new radios to work crews. They plan to enforce flagging of adjacent active tracks during work times. They are working to ensure that all emergency radio and phone boxes are in working order, and they are attempting to limit the noise in the tracks so workers can hear trains coming.

To me, these measures seem like common sense. Working on the tracks is one of the most dangerous jobs in New York. Following safety procedures is a matter of survival.

TWU Local 100 President Roger Toussaint seemed to agree. “These are concrete steps in the right direction,” he said.”For us at TWU, there is no doubt that structural safety deficiencies —including a lack of communication, as well as faulty procedures and rules — contributed to the deaths of Danny Boggs and Marvin Franklin. We are committed to working with the leadership of NYC Transit to ensure meaningful change and does justice to our members who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

Categories : MTA Construction

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