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Two more T worker safety incidents reported, including ‘near miss’ with third rail

“That’s insane that that could happen again,” a member of the T's oversight board said in response to the latest close call. “I mean, I don’t understand that. I really don’t.”

A construction worker on the night shift walked the tracks with a flashlight during last year's MBTA Orange Line shutdown. David L. Ryan/Boston Globe Staff, File

Months after federal regulators hounded the MBTA on worker safety following a series of near misses, T officials on Thursday disclosed two more safety incidents — including a worker injury and a close call with an electrified third rail.

On Nov. 29, a crew member working on the Green Line diversion at Boylston Station took “shrapnel” to the leg after their punch tool broke, Chief Safety Officer Tim Lesniak told the MBTA board’s safety subcommittee. The tool did not have a protective cover, he said.

The laborer was taken to the hospital for treatment, and the T temporarily halted its work and replaced all tools missing their protective covers, Lesniak explained. 

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As crews were wrapping up work between Sullivan and Community College stations on the Orange Line the next morning, a dispatcher powered up the third rail after the workers left but before a welding truck had cleared the area, he said. 

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While Lesniak noted that the truck ultimately made it off the tracks without incident, he acknowledged that “by powering up the third rail power, it does create a concern for anybody who’s by the third rail that is expecting the third rail to be off. And it does offer the opportunity for a train to operate.”

Lesniak said the MBTA reported the incident to the Federal Transit Administration as a near miss and has had “numerous discussions” about it with the FTA and the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, which oversees T safety. He said the agency’s Operations Control Center is bringing in experts to review standard operating procedures and determine whether changes are necessary. 

Lesniak also noted that the T is in the process of reviewing its right-of-way access procedures. 

According to The Boston Globe, the T adopted new procedures for third rail safety in August, after a worker on the Red Line suffered electrical burns when the wires they were working on made contact with the third rail. Another worker was injured in October after dropping a wrench and brushing his leg on the Red Line’s third rail, according to the Globe. 

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The FTA cracked down on MBTA worker safety in September, ordering additional dispatcher training and audits, among other steps. FTA Associate Administrator and Chief Safety Officer Joe DeLorenzo warned at the time that a “combination of unsafe conditions and practices exist such that there is a substantial risk of serious injury or death of a worker.”

Upon hearing about the MBTA’s latest third rail incident, T Board of Directors member Robert Butler responded with incredulity.

“That’s insane that that could happen again,” Butler said. “I mean, I don’t understand that. I really don’t.”

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