SYOSSET — CSEA safety and health committee members are committed to ensuring our employers keep our workplaces as safe as possible.

A perfect example of this is the Oyster Bay Local’s occupational safety and health committee, which has been working with the town officials to correct potentially hazardous job-related conditions.
One of those issues was the presence of carbon monoxide in dozens of the trucks that members were driving.

The committee first became aware of the truck safety issues when shop steward and local safety and health committee member Lou Rodriquez relayed complaints from the sanitation truck drivers to the Oyster Bay Local Safety and Health Committee.

“We’ve had sanitation workers go to the hospital because of the carbon monoxide levels,” said Oyster Bay Local 881 3rd Vice President Guadalupe Johnson. “Once we became aware of the issue, we worked with the town to do several readings on the vehicles to see how, and when, the vehicles were being affected.”

During the inspections, 12 of the trucks tested for such high carbon monoxide levels that they were deemed unusable.

“A common issue is that the floors on the garbage trucks deteriorate [due to rust]very quickly and the exhaust comes in through the floors,” said Oyster Bay Local 881 Executive Vice President Betsy Healey.
The local also addressed additional safety concerns to ensure that workers were using trucks that met state and federal safety standands.

To ensure all vehicles were serviced properly, the local safety and health committee obtained a listing of trucks that were to be repaired and followed up to make sure those vehicles were properly serviced.

“Our members in CVM [Central Vehicle Maintenance] worked around 12 hours of overtime to fix the trucks,” said Oyster Bay Local 881 Safety and Health Committee Chair Dave Critelli. “CSEA members are involved in every aspect of providing safer working conditions for workers in this local.”

The truck safety issue is only one example of how a local safety and health committee can help ensure that our employers keep us as safe as possible on the job.

“We keep things very organized in this local,” said Philip Badome. “The [workers]need that kind of structure in order to have effective communication between them and the local committees.”

Local members noted that they are very pleased with the responsiveness of the committee.

“They know that if they have a complaint it will be taken care of, so they have the confidence in us to approach us with their issues,” said Critelli.

Committee members also recognize that proper safety and health practices are beneficial to the Town of Oyster Bay.

“Overall, it’s in the best interest of the town to cooperate with CSEA and encourage proper safety and health procedures,” said Badome. “Financially speaking, it costs money to the town to have people out of work due to injury.”

The positive relationship the local has with the town also contributed to the speedy response.

“The town was very receptive to working with us,” said Johnson. “It would have taken us three times longer to check all of the vehicles if we didn’t have the manpower that management gave us.”

“We got a lot of cooperation from management because of the reputation that this local has built with the Town of Oyster Bay,” said Badome.

Oyster Bay Local 881 Executive Vice President Betsy Healey recalls a recent shopping trip where she was really able to see the how far the net of the local committee has reached.

“Town residents have been buying these heavy garbage pails that were meant to be lifted electronically,” said Healey. “The sanitation workers were having a difficult time picking them up because the pail is already heavy. When you add the weight of garbage, it’s a potential hazard for our members to lift them.”

Healey noted that the sanitation workers brought their concerns to the local safety and health committee, which in turn asked Oyster Bay Local 881 President Jarvis Brown to address them with town officials, which he did.

“When I was in the hardware store the other day, I saw a big sign in the window, along with a picture and further description of the pail, which said, ‘Do not buy these garbage pails. The Oyster Bay Sanitation Department does not pick up these types of pails,’” said Healey. “When I saw it, I thought to myself, ‘that’s because of our safety and health committee.’”

In addition to the Sanitation Department, our local safety and health committee also works to ensure that town officials are keeping all of the town’s workers as safe as possible.

“What better way to build CSEA than to have members see the action that was taken on their behalf and that our union is there for them?,” Healey said.

— Wendi Bowie

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Wendi Bowie

Wendi Bowie is an award-winning journalist who has focused the majority of her career on covering Long Island news. Her efforts have earned her the Press Club of Long Island Media Award for Public Affairs and the Long Island Coalition for Fair Broadcasting Folio Award. Wendi was drawn to her current position as Communications Specialist for CSEA’s Long Island Region because it speaks to her strong desire to champion the rights of the common man and woman.

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