Early in the fall of 2016, sanitation workers in New York finally received the legal protection they need to keep them safe on the job.
New York State joined about a dozen other states when it adopted what’s known as the “Slow Down to Get Around” law. Governor Andrew Cuomo passed Senate Bill 4268 in early September, and it officially went into effect on November 1.
“This law is about the safety of waste and recycling collectors who serve our communities statewide,” said Steve Changaris, New York State chapter manager for the National Waste & Recycling Association, in a press release. “Now, all motorists are to exercise caution and must slow down to get around waste and recycling vehicles, which will save lives and prevent unnecessary accidents and injuries. Our focus now turns to raising awareness of the new law and educating New Yorkers of the dangers that collection workers face daily on our roadways.”
Under this new law, speeding past a sanitation truck could result in a fine and points added to your driver’s license, similar to what would happen if you sped past a firetruck, school bus, police car or ambulance.
Sanitation workers desperately need this added legal protection – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they have one of the highest rates of on-the-job deaths, behind only steel workers, roofers, pilots and flight engineers, fishermen and loggers with approximately 33 deaths per 100,000 workers.
“The new law, it’ll help us all out… We want the public to know we’re out there, keep an eye out for us. It only takes another minute,” said John Calise, a sanitation worker seriously injured by a driver speeding by his dump truck.
Calise was only wearing a reflective vest before a car sped by his truck and slammed into him, breaking his clavicle, a finger and causing two herniated disks. He spent 10 months recovering, unable to return to work.
“I was dumping the pail on the back of the truck, put it back on the curb. I was coming back towards the truck when my partner had screamed to me ‘look out,'” Calise said. “I remember tightening up, closing my eyes and then waking up in an ambulance.”
While the law doesn’t set a specific speed limit drivers must stay under when passing a garbage truck, police say that drivers should slow down the same way they would when passing an active construction zone.