Written by Bruce Walton aka Chunta Ankh
In a world that glamorizes entertainers, I feel we gravely under-appreciate our every day heroes. I’m speaking of those essential workers who, not only risk their lives for us, but carry out task that keep our cities functioning smoothly. We have gotten so used to certain things, that we forget how dire they are to our every day living. Something as simple as…taking out the trash.
We all hate when we miss one trash day. Why? When we forget to put our trash on the side of the road that trash is left behind until next week. Now we have a hassle. We have to deal with flies, maggots, putting bags by the side of the road to possibly rip, the whole nine. That week is terrible. “Look, at my poor yard”, says everyone that misses a trash day. Now imagine missing a trash month? A trash year? That is the life without our garbage men.
Yet, their appreciation still goes beyond their service.; It’s also the risk. It’s already dangerous enough driving in traffic with speeds that can go from 35 to 55mph. Imagine stopping and going along side these busy roads. Especially, in a vehicle as large as a garbage truck, which limits the amount of road that’s safe to be on. Example, a cyclist has no issues driving on the side of the road when a sedan drives by. There’s enough space. Totally different from when a garbage truck whistles by. Think of that limited space every time a garbage man walks the streets while cars impatiently fly by. Sometimes with no regard. I’m pretty sure we have all done it. We all have places to go and people to see. But is it worth the 3 seconds it would have taken to check your surroundings fully? Let’s check some stories.
The dangers most recently hit home for me on September 18, 2020 at 6:38 in the morning. My little sister notified me that my brother was struck by a van while working his route for his waste recycling job. He was struck while in a customers yard. The driver swerved into the yard to avoid hitting the back of the truck. He suffered a cracked skull, orbital fracture (eye socket), fractured hand, broken nose, and lacerations on the front and back of the head. Through the grace of God, he survived. This would be 1 of many accidents in Florida alone. On May 14th, 2020 in Martin County a fatal crashed occurred when a man rear-ended a garbage truck. On March 17th, 2020 a Bradenton city employed was killed in an accident involving a solid waste front-end loader garbage truck. On Feb.12, 2020 a Leon County waste worker was seriously injured after his garbage truck crashed into a tree. On April 5th, 2019 a Fort Myers waste worker was killed when his truck rolled and pinned him against another vehicle. On Oct 23, 2018 two Daytona Beach drivers were injured when a school bus rear ended a garbage truck. Nov.21st, 2018 a 21 year old Palm Coast man was killed when a Waste Pro truck over turned. At least 57 U.S. waste and recycling workers died on the job in 2018, along with two in Canada and 19 more than in 2017, according to SWANA.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency also provides funding through its Jobs Through Recycling program. This program allocates monies to state, local and tribal government agencies for disbursement to recycling companies that meet its criteria, including a minimum 25 percent match of the federal grant.Even with that, you can’t bring a person back after they have passed. You can’t bring their life back to normal once the have been permanently injured. It’s more so about prevention. We, as a community should advocate more for the safety of these workers. Raise the penalties for speeding around trucks, having a speedometer on the back of trucks to show on-coming traffic how fast they are going and,laws stating that cars can only pass given clearance from the workers.
These garbage men have families. My brother has a beautiful little girl. Our cities are cleaner because of their courage. It was rumored that some of the major plagues that happened, centuries ago, were the results of trashed cities. This article is for awareness. Just please be patient when you see these men. Be attentive while on the road. Wait to respond to that phone call or text and, do your Google searches and map searches while parked. Let’s show our appreciation by making the roads a safer place. For those of importance in the city, let’s advocate for more funding to these workers and waste companies so, that they can improve wages and safety for these brave men. Thank you!