Jump to content
Attention: In order to reply to messages, create topics, have access to other features of the community you must sign up for an account.


This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.


In Subways, Safety Course for Workers

Recommended Posts

By William Neuman - New York Times

Published: May 2, 2007


The curriculum drawn up to give New York City Transit workers an urgent refresher course in safety after two fatal on-the-job accidents last month draws a single, blunt conclusion for avoiding future disasters: “No Short Cuts.”


The 60-page document that outlines the safety campaign makes the reason for the warning clear: A 2002 review of 81 fatal accidents dating from the mid-1940s found that a common cause was failing to set up proper warning signals on the tracks. It also cited lax enforcement of safety rules as another common factor.

Investigators believe that both factors may have played a role in the accident on Sunday in which two workers were hit by a G train at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station in Downtown Brooklyn. One of the workers, Marvin Franklin, 55, was killed.


The review also found that the most common cause of worker deaths was failure to look for an oncoming train before stepping onto the tracks. That may have been what happened on April 24 when Daniel Boggs, 41, a veteran track worker, was killed when he stepped in the path of a No. 3 express train at Columbus Circle in Manhattan, according to transit officials.


After the death of Mr. Franklin, Howard H. Roberts Jr., the president of New York City Transit, ordered a halt to maintenance and construction work on tracks and in tunnels. He also directed the agency’s safety experts, in coordination with the Transport Workers Union, to prepare the 60-page curriculum, which is the backbone for the safety refresher course that track workers are now receiving.


Data provided by New York City Transit shows that on average more than 40 accidents a month cause subway workers to miss at least one day after the accident. The agency reported 125 such accidents by March 25 of this year, but did not provide information on their severity.

The data shows a significant drop in the number of accidents involving workers in recent years. The agency reported 502 employee accidents last year, and 924 in 2000.

There may have been more injuries than accidents. The agency counts a single incident that injures multiple employees as only one accident, according to Paul J. Fleuranges, a transit agency spokesman. He said the reduction in serious accidents was a result of an agency policy promoting safety.


Union officials expressed skepticism over the agency’s data. The agency does not include cases when it has challenged an employee’s injury report to the state’s worker compensation system, a practice the union officials described as frequent.


The 60-page safety curriculum, provided by the agency to The New York Times, covers key workplace issues, including guidelines for moving and working around the tracks and the third rail and the “tool box safety talks” that every work crew is supposed to have before entering the track area.

It also covers rules for using warning lanterns that alert train operators that workers are present, and it reviews the procedure for workers to challenge orders from supervisors when they believe they are unsafe.


An official briefed on the safety curriculum said that the “No Short Cuts” conclusion was intended as a general warning to follow safety rules closely. It can also be interpreted, the official said, as a specific reference to what investigators believe happened Sunday afternoon, when the two workers involved in that accident apparently took a shortcut across live tracks rather than taking a longer and safer route that would have required going up and down two sets of stairs in the station.


The investigation into that accident will focus in part on what instructions the men received from their supervisor and whether they were told to cross the live tracks, the official said.


In Sunday’s accident, Mr. Franklin, and another worker, Jeff Hill, 41, were part of a crew doing routine maintenance on the Queens-bound A and C line tracks at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station. Trains had been shut down on the A and C lines at that station for the weekend, but there was still regular service on the G line, which also runs through the station.


Investigators believe that the men were told by a supervisor to retrieve a dolly, or hand truck, from the vicinity of the Manhattan-bound A and C tracks, on the other side of the station. When they men returned with the dolly, they apparently carried it across the two sets of G tracks, which run through the center of the station, according to an official briefed on the investigation.


A senior official at the transit agency said that no warning lamps had been set out and that no worker with a flag had been positioned on the G tracks to alert oncoming trains to slow down or stop.


Their trip across the tracks broke at least two work rules, according to one of the officials familiar with the investigation. A flagger with warning lamps must be posted on the live tracks before work can be done there or equipment can be carried across, the official said. And workers must also cover the third rail with thick rubber mats before carrying equipment across it, the official said. It appears that neither of those procedures were followed.


The safety curriculum goes into great detail on posting flaggers and warning lamps on the tracks and includes a memo from last June titled “Carrying Tools and Equipment Over Live Third Rails.”


The safety curriculum also gives something of the flavor of the dangers that workers face, frequently warning employees to look in both directions for trains. In some cases, it says, work trains or other trains can actually run the wrong way on tracks. Employees, it says, “must expect trains to operate in either direction and be prepared to take safe positions at all times.”

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use.