MBTA janitors overworked, lack training, report says

MBTA janitorial workers are overworked and perform in unsafe conditions — without the proper training or necessary equipment, according to a new report scheduled to be released Wednesday.

The review was commissioned at the request of the Service Employees International Union 32BJ, the union representing janitorial staff who work in MBTA facilities and are at risk of losing their jobs with the T’s cleaning contractors in a round of layoffs scheduled for Sept. 1.

The report by the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health was based on interviews between the coalition, an organization that lobbies for improved working conditions, and 20 cleaning workers, one of whom has operated in T facilities for 26 years.


Some of the workers said they had received no training on safely cleaning hazardous bodily fluids or disposing discarded needles. Others said they often did not receive the supplies necessary to adequately perform their jobs, such as cleaning fluid, rags, paper towels, and gloves.

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In some cases, workers were only provided with bleach to conduct cleaning — a problem, they said, because excessive exposure to bleach can trigger a host of health problems and because it does not remove dirt or contaminants.

The review also pointed out that workers currently struggle to keep up with assigned tasks as a result of a 9 percent decrease in staff over the past five years — a decline caused by recent attrition as well as layoffs from a previous contract.

MBTA General Manager Beverly A. Scott announced last week that she intends to cancel at least 10 of the planned 90 layoffs.

Martine Powers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.