News & Reviews News Wire Report warns of danger of long hours for LIRR track workers

Report warns of danger of long hours for LIRR track workers

By David Lassen | June 2, 2023

Audit from MTA Inspector General finds more than 4,000 cases where employees worked more than 24 hours

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Track workers wait to work as commuter train passes
Long Island Rail Road track workers pause as a train passes during work near the Floral Park station on Nov. 12, 2022. A new report says some track employees are working dangeously long hours. David Lassen

NEW YORK — Excessive work hours pose a high safety risk for many Long Island Rail Road workers, the Office of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Inspector General says in a report issued Thursday.

The audit, addressing hours for workers not covered by Federal Railroad Administration hours-of-service regulations, found that engineering department employees, particularly track workers, often work a high number of hours that can lead to fatigue and an increase risk of accidents.

In an 18-month period ending in June 2022, the report found that 267 track employees worked 24 hours or longer on 4,375 occasions, with one worker on duty continuously for 24 hours or more 64 times, and another employee who worked 84 consecutive hours on one occasions. In all, employees of the engineering department worked 7% of all hours at risk of severe fatigue, with the 20 track employees with the most frequent long shifts working 37% of their hours in such conditions.

“Fatigued workers put the safety of employees, the public, and railroad assets at risk, and we should not continue to normalize the situation,” Acting MTA Inspector General Elizabeth Keating said in a statement accompanying the report. “Railroad management is also concerned and plans to take constructive actions to vigilantly manage excessive work hours.”

The audit report notes that the long hours arise from factors such as a large number of high-priority capital projects, combined with relatively low staffing levels because of a past hiring freeze and the subsequent pandemic, as well as contractually obligated work rules.

The full audit report, available here, made four recommendations, including modifying worker schedules and training workers on more types of equipment to increase scheduling flexibility, as well as negotiating contract terms with the track workers’ union to better address worker fatigue. LIRR management accepted all four recommendations.

4 thoughts on “Report warns of danger of long hours for LIRR track workers

  1. I can see snow duty causing long, unplanned hours until the RR is open again.

    But schedulled work should be just that: schedulled with predictable times. Sounds like Precision Schedulled MOW.

    Are we dealing with a contract that requires the workers remain in pay status until the RR can find acceptable rest?

  2. I’ve worked shifts like that working on planes at different operations, and I’m not sure how I did it then either. But there were guys that were worse, two guys I worked with got pulled off of one job in the middle of the day, packed up the stuff they needed, then drove 6 hrs. to the job and worked on it for 3 days straight, then drove the 6 hrs. back home.

  3. Overtime is a rampant problem on the MTA railroads. The MTA IG has found numerous instances in the past of blatant fraud and abuse. In most cases, I would guess the employee at a minimum is getting some sleep in a vehicle or somewhere on company property. Regardless, it is a problem. Improper sleep is just as bad as no sleep.

    Also, the employees putting up these massive hours probably have lifestyles built around big pay. Taking that away will not come easily.

  4. Was the worker who worked 84 consecutive hours ( three and a half days ) smoking meth? I’ve worked a 48 hour shift one time and I don’t know how I did it or how I made it home. It was one of the hardest things that I ever had to do in my career. I was also in my early 20’s then so I was still a kid and pull of energy. I’m almost 50 now and there is no way I could do it now if I had to.

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