May 6, 2011
By Myles Nicholas Miller
Loopholes in federal occupational safety laws routinely put MTA employees at risk, Transport Workers Union President John Samuelsen charged at a breakfast forum this morning.
Samuelsen, head of the influential labor group that represents a majority of New York City’s transit workers said safety at the transit agency isn’t regulated under Federal Railroad Law standards. “The MTA must meet or exceed OSHA standards,” said Samuelsen.
During his speech before the Business and Labor Coalition of New York Samuelsen cited specific transit worker fatalities that he says could have been avoided if the federal government regulated occupational safety at the MTA. The Transport Workers Union president said occupational safety bills in Albany and in Washington usually suffer due to partisan bickering.
“In 2002, a comprehensive track safety bill was passed in Albany,” said Samuelsen. But the labor leader said that the progress was short-lived because Governor George E. Pataki went onto veto it. A bill, which Samuelson called, a “watered down” version passed under Governor Elliot Spitzer in 2006.
“Transit workers put their lives on the line under a push for increased safety,” Samuelsen said. “MTA officials cast doubt against workplace dangers faced by bus and train operators.”
Dead rats and human feces coupled with carrying rails weighing up to 1300 pounds, underscore the issues faced by workers, the union president added.
A MTA spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment.