Administrative/support/waste management/remediation

‘In danger every day’: Report details hazards facing sanitation workers in NYC

garbage man

Photo: kozmoat98/iStockphoto

New York – Injuries and fatalities are prevalent in the New York City commercial waste industry despite being easily preventable, according to a recent report from the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.

Sanitation workers face a fatality risk that is 10 times higher than workers in all other industries, and their injury risk is 2.5 times higher than miners, the report states.

In the report, NYCOSH outlined eight case studies involving fatalities, chemical exposures and an amputation. Many of the issues stemmed from commercial waste companies that failed to comply with safety regulations, the report states.

In a press release, private sanitation worker Sidney Marthone described some of the hazards.

“We are in danger every day,” Marthone said. “We don’t get the safety equipment or training we need and are sent out on broken trucks. I lost part of my finger on a damaged dumpster and the company played games with me so I wouldn’t get the workers’ comp I needed.”

The report lists several recommended best practices for employers in the waste industry. Among them:

  • Conduct workplace hazard assessments. Identify hazards and, if those hazards cannot be eliminated, implement safe work procedures and provide correct personal protective equipment at no cost to workers.
  • Provide health and safety training to workers in a language they understand.
  • Create exposure control plans for workers who come in contact with blood or other bodily fluids.
  • Substitute quieter processes, parts and equipment to reduce noise exposure.
  • Limit extended work shifts as often as possible.
  • Provide access to toilets, wash facilities, showers and potable drinking water.

“Too many workers are getting injured or killed in the commercial waste industry as egregious violators disregard workplace safety,” NYCOSH Executive Director Charlene Obernauer said in the release. “New York City needs to ensure that employers are held accountable to the law and get creative about solutions to keeping these workers – who are primarily people of color – safe.”

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