Joey Hadden/Business InsiderSanitation workers have one of the most dangerous jobs in America, and the most essential — here’s how they do it every morning in NYC.
- To combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo reduced the state’s workforce to only those who are “essential.”
- Alongside healthcare workers and reporters, New York’s sanitation workers were deemed essential by the state.
- Sanitation workers also have the fifth most dangerous job in America, and it’s the only job in the top five deemed essential. It’s also perhaps one of the most arduous jobs – thanks to hazardous waste and dangerous equipment.
- We shadowed two sanitation workers in NYC – one of the filthiest cities in the US – early one morning to see what made the job so dangerous.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) divides up the city into 59 districts, which separates the five boroughs into zones for cleaning and garbage and recycling collection.
Joey Hadden/Business InsiderKevin Greenan waits for Mike Squiciari to drive the collection truck to the next street.
DSNY picks up the trash of residents, schools, and non-profits. Restaurants and businesses must pay for private trash collection.
Business Insider shadowed two sanitation workers on their route — Kevin Greenan and Mike Squiciari. Greenan had been on the job for about 20 years, and Squiciari for about 33 years.
Joey Hadden/Business InsiderGreenan and Squiciari prepare for their routes after roll call at the New York City Department of Sanitation.
The two don’t normally work together, but Squiciari’s usual partner was out for the day. Since they have seniority, the two get more flexibility to pick the routes and schedules they want.
We began in the Spring Street Garage on the west side of Lower Manhattan, and our route included parts of Soho and Greenwich Village.
We drove behind the garbage truck alongside DSNY chief Keith Mellis for safety reasons. Chief Mellis oversees all five boroughs and began with the department as a sanitation worker in Harlem 33 years ago.
Joey Hadden/Business InsiderChief Mellis follows in an SUV behind a collection truck on a daily route.
The metal that breaks down and pushes trash to the back of the vehicle is called a “hopper.”
Hoppers can be dangerous as they break down garbage quickly, and trash can quickly get sprayed outward.
Sanitation workers must stand to the side of the hopper as they load trash into the vehicle.
One sanitation worker in Brooklyn died after dumping trash that contained acid. The acid sprayed outward after it got sucked into the hopper and got on the sanitation worker’s skin.
Source: The New York Times
Sanitation workers must pass a civil service exam — which includes both a written and physical portion — before getting hired.
Most sanitation workers wear sturdy shoes without steel toes, which can sever your foot if run over by a car.
Joey Hadden/Business InsiderEmployees prepare for a 6 am roll call at the New York City Department of Sanitation.
Squiciari, whose coworkers nicknamed him “Mikey Arms,” is a bodybuilder and trainer. He says part of what allowed him to stay on the job for 33 years was his physical fitness and time spent in the gym.
“If you plan on taking this job, try to be young and take care of your body,” Squiciari told Business Insider. “Eat healthy and exercise. That’s what I’ve been doing, and I’ve lasted 33 years doing this job in all different weather conditions. Thank God I feel great.”
Joey Hadden/Business InsiderSquiciari (right) and Greenan (left) discuss the dangers of sanitation work.
Another important part of the job is keeping an eye out for bikers.
Since Mayor Michael Bloomberg instated bike lanes in much of the city during his 2002-2013 tenure, sanitation workers have to pay extra attention to their blind spots so that they won’t run into bikers.
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