State audit says MBTA staffers lacked safety trainings

Local News

The contracted workers usually wearing red shirts at MBTA stations didn’t complete regular safety checks and were potentially not trained, the audit found.

(Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff)

The MBTA struggled with oversight while failing to ensure that the contracted employees usually wearing red shirts at T stations were trained and completed safety checks, a state audit found.

The State Auditor Diana DiZoglio’s office released the first part of their audit of the MBTA, which covers Jan 1, 2021 to Dec. 31, 2022 — a tumultuous time for the transit agency marred with safety concerns and staffing shortages. 

General Manager Phillip Eng took over the troubled T in April of 2023, just a few months after the audit’s time frame.

During that time frame, the contractor Block by Block and their employees were responsible for assisting commuters along with reporting safety hazards and maintenance issues. Instead, DiZoglio’s audit found that the MBTA did not manage BBB. The transit agency didn’t track that the red shirt employees completed visual station checks or were trained on safety and general operations.

BBB’s contracts with the MBTA from 2017 to 2022 employed 130 to 220 people for a total of about $47 million. In 2022, the agencies agreed to a five-year contract for $102 million for 325 employees at 66 stations, according to the auditor’s report.

The auditor selected a sample of 60 BBB employees (out of more than 800 that worked in the contracted positions during the audit period), who the MBTA “could not demonstrate” received any operations training. The MBTA could only prove two out of the 60 received safety training.

The MBTA responded and said the employees had completed both trainings but were unable to provide sign-in sheets that satisfied the auditor. The auditor couldn’t “substantiate” sign-in sheets created in 2024 actually documented the operations training in 2021 and 2022.

“Our audit of the MBTA has revealed significant gaps in safety training and contract management, which puts riders, employees and the public at risk,” DiZoglio said in a statement. “Riders, taxpayers and employees deserve better management of a contract worth tens of millions of their public dollars.”

The BBB employees were also responsible for checking the stations twice an hour, which the audit found that BBB only completed 6% of the time. The audit said the MBTA and BBB had communicated this expectation, which the MBTA didn’t track.

The MBTA responded that the visual checks are encouraged and requested but are “not a contractual requirement in the agreement with BBB.” They said the auditor “negatively skews the data.”

The audit also addressed that employees overused fare access cards, with more than 1.8 million courtesy taps going unrecorded. The MBTA acknowledged that they didn’t monitor the card closely, but said this most likely didn’t result in lost fare revenue because the employees weren’t offering free travel to customers.

DiZoglio’s office said they will be following up with the MBTA about their recommendations to implement monitoring controls and performance metrics in six months.

MBTA spokesperson Lisa Battiston told the agency has created two new leadership positions to increase supervision of stations.

“We appreciate the Office of the State Auditor’s recommendations and remain dedicated to continuous improvement in safety and service quality to provide a safer, more reliable transit system for our riders and employees,” Battiston said.

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