Report: NYC Private Waste Hauling Industry Unsafe

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By John Herzfeld

May 16 — The private commercial waste hauling industry in New York City is marked by disregard of workplace safety standards and should be better regulated by the city, an advocacy group said.

Commercial waste work is among the most dangerous jobs in the city, according to a report released May 13 by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, a coalition backed by unions and public interest groups.

The report contrasted conditions at private waste carters, which handle commercial trash in the city, with unionized city Sanitation Department operations for collecting residential trash. Non-union commercial waste companies, it said, “routinely violate legal requirements with impunity,” with high injury and fatality rates.

Private-sector solid waste collection operations account for 85 percent of U.S. fatalities in the industry, versus local government sanitation agencies, the report said.

In a statement, NYCOSH Executive Director Charlene Obernauer called for a city crackdown on “egregious violators.”

Collective Bargaining Angle

Sean Campbell, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 813, which represents private carting workers, said in a statement that “some companies are repeatedly shirking their responsibilities and endangering workers.” The report called for the city to take steps to encourage collective bargaining in the commercial waste sector.

Included in the report were eight case studies of recent worker fatalities, chemical exposures or amputations in the city’s commercial waste sector, which the authors said showed employer failures to address hazardous conditions with required or recommended measures.

Among the policy steps recommended by the report were pursuing criminal prosecution of waste operators where evidence indicates that a fatality was caused by willful disregard of a legal requirement or an employer’s plain indifference to employee safety.

It also called for the city to set up an interagency working group to share information and coordinate actions on complaints, conditions, violations and enforcement in the commercial waste sector.

Licensing Conditions Urged

Also, the report said, city licensing should be conditioned on certifications of compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules and American National Standards Institute consensus standards, as well as wage and hour compliance.

In equipment specifications, the report urged the city to require neutral-position interlocks to prevent waste collection vehicles from going into drive during compacting. It also sought the removal of riding steps, a prohibition on riding on the exterior of waste collection vehicles and required seats and seatbelts to accommodate the collection crew.

To contact the reporter on this story: John Herzfeld in New York at jherzfeld@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

For More Information

The report, “Dirty and Dangerous,” is available at http://src.bna.com/e12.