Newsday transportation reporter Alfonso Castillo on Wednesday spoke with the MTA board about recent safety incidents relating to third track construction on the Long Island Rail Road. Credit: YouTube / mtainfo/mtainfo

The contractor carrying out the work at the LIRR’s Mineola station that resulted in an ironworker being severely injured by electrical shock Saturday violated several safety protocols, according to the MTA, which has launched a probe into safety practices at the railroad’s Third Track project following a string of incidents in recent weeks.

The revelation came as work on the $2.6 billion megaproject remains suspended, pending the findings of several investigations, including one being carried out by an independent safety consultant hired Tuesday to review safety protocols and come up with ways to strengthen them, MTA officials said.

"It’s our priority to make sure everyone coming to work goes home safely," Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman Patrick Foye said at the MTA Board’s monthly meeting Wednesday. "I also want to be clear that incidents like this are rare at the MTA. But one is too many."

According to MTA officials, the incident occurred when contractors were scheduled to install a prefabricated pedestrian bridge in Mineola as part of the Third Track project. After the job was finished, the contractors on the site decided to take on the additional task of moving another piece of steel with a crane, the MTA said.

An ironworker, identified by her union as Kelly Gluchowski, was touching that piece of steel when the crane made contact with energized overhead cables, causing her to be severely shocked. MTA officials said she was seriously injured, and officials at NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island said Wednesday that she remains in stable condition.

Janno Lieber, president of MTA Capital Construction, said the agency since has "identified some protocols and procedures that were not properly observed" by contractors on the project, which is headed by 3rd Track Constructors, or 3TC — a joint venture of several construction firms.

In addition to not being part of the work scheduled that day, the crane "steel pick" that resulted in the accident did not have a required "safe work plan" and involved equipment that "was not supposed to be used," according to Lieber, who ordered Third Track work to be halted following the incident.

Formally known as the LIRR Expansion, the project aims to construct a 10-mile long Third Track between Floral Park and Hicksville by the end of 2022.

"When you have an incident of this seriousness, you have to stop and examine what went on, what were the contributing factors, and to make sure you have the protocols and procedures to prevent that kind of thing from happening ever again," Lieber said.

3TC officials declined to comment Wednesday.

Even before Saturday’s incident, LIRR union leaders had raised concerns about the safety practices of outside contractors, following several other incidents in recent weeks, including the March 8 demolition of an electrical substation in Mineola that resulted in four LIRR workers being trapped inside an adjacent building partially buried in debris.

On Wednesday, Anthony Simon, who heads the LIRR’s largest union, reiterated a call — rejected earlier this week by Lieber — for the MTA to pause all LIRR projects involving third party contractors. Simon and other labor leaders have suggested that, under the gun to bring infrastructure projects in on time and within budget, the MTA and its contractors have cut corners.

"We are asking [Lieber] and his army of capital construction managers to stop and take a good hard look at the incidents," said Simon, general chairman of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers. "He needs to ensure worker safety moving forward, instead of planning the next ribbon cutting."

Also on Wednesday, MTA officials acknowledged the passage of the latest COVID-19 federal stimulus package, which will deliver another $6.5 billion in aid to the transit agency. With the funding, Foye said the MTA can "shift its focus away from doomsday budget preparations" that could have included mass layoffs and deep service cuts.

The bailout, which brings the total amount of COVID-19 federal aid received by the MTA to $14.5 billion, also will allow the agency to resume work on its $55 billion Capital Program, which funds infrastructure improvements through 2024.

Most of the projects in the plan had been put on hold because of the financial crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic, which drastically reduced fares and other MTA revenue.

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