NYC sanitation workers have been deemed essential in the coronavirus pandemic. They also have one of the most dangerous jobs in America.

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.


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.

Source: DSNY


DSNY picks up the trash of residents, schools, and non-profits. Restaurants and businesses must pay for private trash collection.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderSquiciari tosses garbage into the hopper.

Source: DSNY


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.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderSquiciari on the route.

We began in the Spring Street Garage on the west side of Lower Manhattan, and our route included parts of Soho and Greenwich Village.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderWe were on the west side of Lower Manhattan.

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.”

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe hopper in-motion on a collection truck.

Source: DSNY


Hoppers can be dangerous as they break down garbage quickly, and trash can quickly get sprayed outward.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderThe hopper on a collection truck.

Source: DSNY


Sanitation workers must stand to the side of the hopper as they load trash into the vehicle.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderSquiciari tosses garbage into the hopper.

Source: DSNY


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.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderGreenan collects garbage on the side of the hopper.

Source: The New York Times


Sanitation workers must pass a civil service exam — which includes both a written and physical portion — before getting hired.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderGreenan and Squiciari work together on their route.

Source: DSNY


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.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderSquiciari discusses the challenging duties of a sanitation worker.

“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.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderSanitation workers on their lower-Manhattan route.

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.

Joey Hadden/Business InsiderSquiciari drives a collection truck in lower Manhattan.

Source: DSNY

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.