Improvements To Monitoring & Asbestos Abatement At MTA Facilities Needed

Published on December 30, 2020, 4:49 pm
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Following a 10-month review, MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny today called upon MTA leadership to improve its management and monitoring of asbestos-containing material in all its facilities.

While the Office of the MTA Inspector General (OIG) did not substantiate the union’s and employees’ specific allegations of hazardous asbestos particles circulating in the air at the East New York bus depot (ENY), OIG did uncover several ways in which MTA deviated from its own policies in asbestos management, specifically how supervisors and managers track asbestos conditions. For this reason, the OIG recommended MTA management track and memorialize known asbestos locations in a transparent way that will enable safe work environments, and foster confidence in all who must work in them. 

“I am relieved that workers at the facility were not exposed to dangerous, airborne asbestos fibers, however there is simply no excuse for leadership to be reactive instead of proactive when it comes to worker safety,” said MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny. “It is unacceptable that the MTA violated their own policies, not to mention common sense, by not keeping track of known asbestos locations which could put employees at risk.” 

Notably, when the complaints were filed about ENY, NYC Transit’s Office of System Safety (OSS) failed to consult an extensive 2011 survey which detailed locations of asbestos-containing material at the facility. In fact, this 2011 survey seems to have been shelved and forgotten as soon as it was completed. As a result, ENY facilities management commissioned 2 more asbestos reviews that were redundant because of the 2011 survey. By not following its own management policy, and documenting, tracking, updating, and widely communicating information regarding known asbestos locations at MTA facilities, OSS put itself in a reactive position when workers raised concerns. OIG finds OSS’s failure to document and provide critical information that could impact worker safety unacceptable. 

Additionally, OIG discovered OSS lacks an asbestos tracking system for all its facilities, and thus fails to monitor existing known asbestos locations for changes in conditions. When OIG asked OSS to provide updates on the conditions of 25 vulnerable areas highlighted in the 2011 survey to determine their current state, OSS had to commission a 3rd additional survey, which resulted in the abatement of asbestos in 2 additional areas.  

NYC Transit agreed to implement the OIG’s 5 recommendations, noting that maintaining a database of current, known asbestos locations is a significant, long-term, ongoing project.   

NYC Transit requested the review, which members of the OIG’s Audit Unit conducted. 

The OIG’s report, including findings and recommendations, could be accessed here.

The MTA Inspector General encourages all members of the public to reach out with complaints, tips, or to report fraud via the Office’s confidential tip reporting portals: online here, by phone at 1-800-682-4448 or by e-mail at complaints@mtaig.org.

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