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Working Underground Can Be Dangerous for Subway Workers, but Here’s How the MTA Tries to Protect Them

Working Underground Can Be Dangerous for Subway Workers, but Here’s How the MTA Tries to Protect Them - subway worker

The Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA) is the largest public transit authority in the US. According to New York State government figures, the MTA employs approximately 75,000 people, with around 30,000 working for the Department of Subways alone. Subway employees include track workers, train conductors, train operators, facility maintenance workers, and many more.

Subway workers repairing and maintaining the aging NYC subway system face considerable dangers every day. They can be at risk from faulty equipment, trains, work hazards, and other workers’ negligence. Moreover, according to CBS News, subway workers are also concerned about safety issues due to increased homelessness, crime, and violence in the subway system. 

Unfortunately, getting what you deserve as an injured subway worker can be tricky, whether you deal with the convoluted workers’ compensation process or want to sue a negligent third party. However, you don’t have to go it alone. Our experienced and determined MTA attorneys can fight for what you need to get your life back on track. Contact us now for a free case evaluation to determine your options.

Recent Accidents on the New York Subway System

There have been several accidents involving MTA workers in recent years, including:

  • A signal helper was hit by a subway train in Greenwich Village in January 2022, losing a foot and suffering a shattered leg.
  • An MTA worker needed hospital treatment after getting struck by a train and injured in April 2022.
  • In 2015, a 16-year veteran MTA worker suffered third-degree burns and temporary blindness when the equipment he was working on was struck by a train.
  • In November 2016, a New York subway train struck two MTA transit workers, killing one and injuring the other while working on the tracks.

How Dangerous Is Working on the Subways?

Fixing and maintaining New York’s almost 700 miles of subway tracks while dodging trains and the electric “third rail” is no mean feat. However, although working on the MTA system does have its dangers, it has become significantly less hazardous in the last few decades. According to the New York Times, at least 238 subway workers have been killed at work since 1946. Most of the casualties occurred in the 1940s and 1950s. Those injured fatally on the job include train operators, subway workers, conductors, and others. Since then, the MTA has improved workers’ safety standards, resulting in fewer accidents and fatalities. 

However, every person hurt or killed while working on the subway system is one too many. While statistics may have improved in recent years, this provides little consolation for the family and loved ones of a severely injured or killed subway worker. 

MTA Workers and Their Families Have Rights

When subway accidents happen, workers and their families may wonder how to recover compensation for their losses due to a work accident. The first step for most workers seeking financial help with medical bills and wage losses should be filing a workers’ compensation claim. 

However, you could also be entitled to compensation from a negligent third-party, such as another contractor. Knowing what you are entitled to when you are injured at work is crucial for getting what you deserve. Morgan & Morgan represents injured MTA workers and their families in wrongful death claims and third-party negligence lawsuits. We could also advocate for you and help you get benefits with a workers’ compensation claim. 

How Does the MTA Try to Protect Workers?

The MTA has several safety policies and procedures in place to keep subway workers and riders safe. 

MTA Track Safety Training

New MTA workers have to undergo extensive training before they are allowed to operate trains or work on the tracks. Safety training includes learning about several aspects of the subway system, such as:

  • MTA safety protocols
  • Train speeds and train braking
  • Track signals

In addition, track and roadway workers have to undergo an eight-hour track safety training and refreshers every two years.  

Pre-Work Safety Assessments

The MTA conducts comprehensive pre-job inspections to identify and address any dangers before undertaking track work. In addition, pre-job safety meetings are held for all track work.


The MTA holds regular inspections to ensure the safety of tracks and subway cars, including:

  • Daily pre-trip inspections of all cars 
  • Ongoing car inspections at regular intervals
  • Regular track and signal inspections

What Can Workers Do to Stay Safe? 

Fatal accidents like the death of a subway worker in 2016 show that subway employees face significant occupational hazards every time they step on the tracks. Staying out of harm’s way can be difficult in dark and dank subway tunnels. However, knowing and using the safeguards in place can help protect employees.

Look Both Ways

While it may sound obvious, track workers should always look both ways before crossing tracks. According to the NY Daily News, failing to look both ways when stepping on the tracks is the most common cause of subway accidents with worker fatalities. Further, subway track workers must always be prepared to encounter trains at any time, on any track, and in either direction.

Get Into the “Clear Up” Position

Getting out of the way of trains and into a protected position away from the train is called “clearing up” in subway workers’ language. Track workers who hear a train moving towards them or fellow workers’ positions should shout “clear up” to alert workers. 

Carry Flashlights or Lamps

Lamps and flashlights help workers see in dark subway tunnels and are a necessary piece of equipment. Lights protect workers from tripping over objects or rails and can be used to flag down a train proceeding into an area with workmen. Flagging the train gives the train operator time to slow down and stop, allowing workers to clear the track. All employees working on a track should carry a flashlight or lamp to illuminate their work area. Lights should be high-intensity incandescent or LED-powered.

Watch Out for the Third Rail

The “third rail” is a live electric rail providing electric power to the subway trains. Working around the third rail without exercising the necessary care and attention can be fatal for subway workers. Touching the rail can cause devastating electrocutions. Track workers working near the electric rail must use rubber mats to cover the third rail in their work area. Metal tools used near the third rail must be insulated with rubber or electrical tape.

Common Injuries in Subway Accidents

Subway accidents can lead to life-changing injuries, especially if workers are struck by a train. Injuries can include: 

  • Head injuries such as concussions
  • Loss of limbs
  • Electrocution
  • Severe burns
  • Smoke inhalation
  • Crush injuries from being caught in-between equipment
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Spinal cord injuries

Getting hurt in a subway accident can have devastating consequences for MTA workers and their families. Victims may incur astronomical medical expenses, lost wages, and other expenses due to a subway injury. If you are affected, Morgan & Morgan could help you seek fair compensation so you can rebuild your life after a severe injury. 

Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim as an MTA Subway Worker

According to the New York State’s Workers’ Compensation Board, most injured employees are entitled to file a workers' compensation claim. You could qualify for medical care, lost wages, vocational benefits, and more. The family of a deceased subway worker could also receive certain death benefits under New York State law. However, obtaining your workers’ comp benefits as an MTA worker can be challenging. 

A report by the Office of the New York State Comptroller revealed that the MTA workers’ compensation process needs significant improvement. Inconsistent processes have led to late claim appeals and workers missing out on benefits. 

However, you don’t have to struggle with a complicated workers’ compensation claim on your own. If your claim was delayed or denied, Morgan & Morgan’s experienced worker’s compensation attorneys could help you fight for the benefits you are entitled to under the law.

Morgan & Morgan Fights for Subway Workers’ Rights

When an MTA subway worker is injured or killed, workers’ compensation and the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) provide financial assistance. However, injured workers generally cannot sue their employer, which means they cannot recover any losses exceeding their workers’ compensation benefits.

However, in some instances, a worker hurt in a subway accident can sue a third party that contributed to the accident. Morgan & Morgan can walk you through your options and determine your next best steps. We can:

  • Analyze your MTA accident and determine all responsible parties
  • Help you fight a denied or minimized workers’ compensation claim
  • File a lawsuit against a third party

Morgan & Morgan understands that injured workers rely on benefits or an adequate settlement to pay their bills and move on with their lives. We never settle for less and can fight for the benefits and compensation you and your family deserve. There are no out-of-pocket costs for hiring us. We only get paid if we resolve your lawsuit or workers’ compensation claim in your favor. Contact us today to find out more.