MTA tells workers to examine job safety

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The Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants its workers to drop what they're doing and think of ways to do their jobs more safely.

The MTA Tuesday announced plans for a "safety stand-down" across its transit agencies that would require workers to temporarily halt operations and use the time to consider safety practices.

An MTA source said workers will be asked to "take a fresh look at what they do, discuss how they do it, look for ways to improve safety, and reinforce that their job isn't just to follow the rules, but to operate with safety as their top priority at all times."

"This is to reinforce culture, not just the rule book," the source said.

MTA officials said the stand-down at its various agencies, including Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road, would begin later this week.

In a letter sent yesterday to the MTA, Joseph Szabo, administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, called such a stand-down "a visible first step to restoring public and employee confidence," but said more is needed.

He called for the immediate implementation of a "confidential close call reporting system" in the MTA that would protect whistle-blowers from disciplinary action if they report potentially dangerous conditions.

Szabo said Sunday's fatal derailment of a Metro-North train in the Bronx -- the fourth of an MTA train in seven months -- is "simply unacceptable."

"We support any initiative to operate trains at a safe speed on the LIRR," said Michael Quinn, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Local 269, which represents LIRR engineers.

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The effort follows Sunday's derailment of a Metro-North train in the Bronx, killing four passengers and injuring dozens more.

The derailment killed four passengers, and federal investigators say the train was traveling at 82 mph where the limit was 30 mph.

"I've spoken to the head of the MTA today, and they're going to be implementing additional safety procedures in the wake of this," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Tuesday, adding that he would still feel safe on a Metro-North train.

"This was truly an extraordinary, exceptional situation," he said.

Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) who chairs the state Senate Transportation Committee, Tuesday called on the MTA to expedite plans to install a new accident-prevention technology on Metro-North and the LIRR.

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The MTA has said it does not think it will meet a federal deadline to have the positive train control system in place by December 2015.

But Fuschillo said he wants it up and running sooner.

In a statement, the MTA said the size and complexity of its system make the 2015 deadline difficult to meet, but it "will continue its efforts to install PTC as quickly as possible. "

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