QUEENSBURY — Thanks to help from CSEA’s Occupational Safety and Health Department, Town of Queensbury Highway Department members have resolved a potential worksite safety hazard after the employer initially didn’t listen to the workers’ concerns.
Grates attached to the back of plow trucks, meant to sift out chunks of salt or sand, could only be installed, removed or maintained by workers climbing on them. This practice was causing injuries.
Highway Department workers initially approached management to resolve the problem. Department managers were not receptive to emplyees’ safety concerns or suggested solutions.
Unit members turned to Warren County Local President and Town of Queensbury Unit President Susan
Sheehan, who reached out to CSEA Occupational Safety and Health Specialist Brian Pomeroy.
Pomeroy agreed the issue was serious and needed to be addressed. When attempts to work with management were unsuccessful, Pomeroy filed a complaint with the state Public Employees Safety and Health (PESH) Bureau, which oversees safety regulations at public sector workplaces.
Sheehan, who was present for the on-site PESH investigation, recalls dismissive language from the town’s highway superintendent, who tried to blame employees for their injuries, stating they would not be hurt if they weren’t “an idiot.”
‘Serious’ violation; another incident
Earlier this year, PESH cited the town with a “Serious” violation and issued an abatement date of Feb. 24, 2021. The town was informed that from the date of the initial inspection forward, any employee injury could be met with criminal assault charges.
On March 2, less than a week from the town petitioning PESH for an extension of the ordered abatement, another employee was injured.
“I reached out first to Brian Pomeroy about this employee injury on March 2, and on his advice, forwarded an email describing the incident to PESH Inspector Sue Blodgett,” said Sheehan.
PESH again investigated, denied the town’s extension request and levied fines from February 24 to March 15, the date the town ordered an outside contractor to remove the grates off the site.
The grates will never again be used and an initial employee suggestion to purchase a safer system to replace the grates will be implemented.
“I am so proud of CSEA for helping these members attain a safer workplace,” said Sheehan.
— Therese Assalian