2003-02-15 / Community

Addabbo: ‘Insure TA Worker Safety’

Addabbo: ‘Insure TA Worker Safety’

City Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., a member of the Council’s Transportation Committee, called on the New York City Transit Authority to be more proactive than reactive when it comes to the safety of their workers.

Addabbo also called for better training and updates on safety procedures. "The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) should work with the Transport Workers Union Local 100 (TWU) and its members to see what their concerns are and where they feel safety can be improved," added Addabbo.

The councilman said the MTA improved their procedures regarding transit worker safety after recent accidents claimed the lives of five transit workers on the job in the past year and a half.

Addabbo said that at a recent transportation committee oversight hearing on transit worker safety in New York City, TWU officials maintained that most of the job-related deaths in the past 23 years could have been prevented "if the Transit Authority more consistently and vigorously enforced and reviewed its own safety rules."

A subway motorman, with 23-years on the job, told the committee that, as a train operator, he survived numerous close calls due to what he called inconsistent flagging regulations.

A TWU official testified before the committee that a loophole in the law allows the New York City Transit Authority, as an inter-city agency, to avoid federal oversight. "Operating largely on its own, the agency is too lax in enforcing its own safety rules," he said, adding that the City Council needs to implement legislation to require compliance.

There are approximately 34,000 workers employed by the MTA-NYCTA including approximately 7,000 workers who maintain the tracks, signals, switches, lights and other equipment along the City’s 722-mile subway system. Many have a difficult and often dangerous job.

On January 19, a subway train conductor was killed as she leaned her head outside the train to check if its doors properly closed on a Manhattan-bound "A" train. She apparently was not aware of the approaching fence at the Aqueduct/North Conduit Avenue station and struck her head on the fence.

Last November two workers were killed within a day of each other. The first victim was working in a crew of three on November 21, 2002 when he was struck by a southbound Number 3 train near the 96 Street station. According to a TWU official there were no flagging lights in place warning oncoming trains that workers were working on the tracks. Such lights are required under NYCTA rules.

The second worker, a signal maintainer, was struck by a northbound E train while working in a subway tunnel just north of the Canal Street station on November 22, 2002.

Prior to these to these deaths, an "A" train in East New York struck a flagman on April 9, 2002. A second TA flagman for a track crew was electrocuted in Brooklyn on July 17, 2001.

At the committee hearing the union also expressed concern about worker safety aboveground. The TWU leadership stated that the NYCTA does not adequately protect workers who are doing routine street-level maintenance work. The union noted that NYCTA’s failure to follow DOT guidelines while conducting this work, "continually puts vehicles, workers and pedestrians at great risk."

"I believe the MTA should include the TWU in reviewing its safety measures and both should increase dialogue and efforts regarding worker protection," Addabbo stated.

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