Every industry, every job, involves some risk of harm, on some level. Granted, some industries and jobs present a greater risk of harm to workers than others. Construction, mining, and manufacturing, for example, certainly present a greater overall risk of harm to workers than hospitality, retail and white collar work. Here in New York City, one industry which involves significant risks for workers is private sanitation work.
According to a report published by the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, sanitation work is one of the most risky lines of work in New York City. The report detailed cases of worker injuries, including cases of chemical exposure, amputation and fatality, all disturbing because many such accidents are avoidable.
Part of what makes it so dangerous is that non-union commercial waste companies too often fail to abide by safety standards, which results in frequent injury and fatality. Suggested solutions to the problem include encouraging collective bargaining in the private sanitation industry, conditioning licensing on compliance with workplace safety rules, and setting up a network to disseminate information about complaints, violations and enforcement in the private sanitation industry.
Another suggested solution is to pursue criminal liability for waste operators when the evidence shows that a worker’s death was the result of indifference or willful disregard of a legal obligation. In our next post, we’ll consider this suggestion further, looking particularly at the potential workers’ compensation ramifications.