New York and Atlantic Railway (NYAR) has been under scrutiny before for putting both their workers and commuters on the rails at risk, and it looks like there is a reason for concern once again.
NYAR had a lawsuit filed against it in February for numerous safety infractions involving day laborers. The laborers allege in the lawsuit that they were expected to perform tasks that they were not trained to do, such as fixing track switches.
The work involved is dangerous even when there are adequate training and certification, but when no instruction has been given to laborers, it’s just a matter of time before a disaster happens. The alleged NYAR safety violations, including not issuing mandated safety equipment to laborers, put both the workers and rail commuters at risk.
Due to the widespread public outcry for the NYAR to lose its contract as the freight operator for the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), lawmakers such as United States Representative Kathleen Rice are also taking an interest. Rice wants the Federal Railroad Administration to audit NYAR workplace conditions and make recommendations.
Solutions in Our Backyard
At Rutgers University, New Brunswick, Xiang Liu leads the rail engineering and safety program in their Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. He sees the goal of the New Jersey research university is to study the challenges the railroad industry faces such as infrastructure maintenance and safety with efficiency. Rutgers can then train the next generation of railroad personnel in best practices.
While inventive solutions help guide best railroad design practices forward, an equally necessary way to ensure safety is to hold companies accountable for lack of compliance and outright disregard for safe work conditions.