Subway Track Worker Bill Passes N.Y. Senate

The New York State Senate June 14 passed a previously vetoed safety bill for New York City subway track workers. The bill is expected to head to Gov. Eliot Spitzer's desk to be signed into law.

The bill, which came in the wake of the deaths of two track workers who died in separate incidents, calls for the creation of the New York City Transit Authority Track Safety Task Force. The task force would develop on-track safety procedures for the NYC Transit Authority's employees.

Under the terms of the bill (S. 4580), the task force membership would consist of three members, including the MTA commissioner or designee, the president of New York City Transit Authority or a designee and the president of Transport Workers Union Local 100 or a designee. They would be charged with making recommendations on ways to ensure the safety of transit employees.

“It is absolutely imperative that we do everything we can to ensure the safety standards of the rail system in New York City and prevent accidents and deaths of our transit authority employees,” said state Sen. Serphin Maltese, R-Queens.

Maltese: Job's Inherent Danger No Excuse for Deaths

Although the risk of a catastrophic incident is constantly present for workers toiling on NYC subway tracks – as it is the only 24/7 subway system in the United States – Maltese said this isn't a justification for the deaths.

“The jobs performed by these workers are inherently dangerous, and while we cannot eliminate all the danger, we can establish the highest possible safety standards,” Maltese said.

A similar bill introduced in August 2004 sought to put into law a set of safety regulations for track workers, but former Gov. George Pataki vetoed the bill because he said he felt the added safety steps could cause “severe service disruptions” and “financial consequences to the agency.”

NYC Transit – which only runs trains within the city – is not regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration, which oversees most other railroads and mandates compliance with a long list of regulations.

A total of 25 subway track workers have been killed while on the job since 1980.

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