San Francisco Public Works Fined for Safety Violations after Street-Cleaning Trucks “Overloaded”

California’s watchdog agency for worker safety, Cal/OSHA, determined Public Works failed to implement procedures for correcting "unsafe or unhealthy conditions"

San Francisco Public Works has been cited for violating state safety laws, according to documents obtained by the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit.

Investigators with Cal/OSHA found Public Works “failed to establish and implement effective methods or procedures to correct the unsafe condition of overloading…street cleaning trucks.”

The state’s findings reflect what the NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit exposed last week – city vehicles are often unsecured and overloaded with trash, despite state laws that require such cargo to be tarped or tied down.

Debris that falls from moving vehicles accounts for about 50,658 crashes, 9,805 injuries, and 125 deaths each year, according to a 2016 study by AAA.

The citation also noted other hazards, including clogged drains at a Public Works facility, that resulted in employees being forced to wade through dirty water lined with “floating used syringes and other unsafe debris.”

Cal/OSHA ordered the agency to immediately correct its "unsafe or unhealthy conditions."

Larry Stringer, Deputy Director of Operations at Public Works, said he plans to meet with representatives from Cal/OSHA over the next two weeks to discuss the violations in detail, but declined to comment further.

On Wednesday, Stringer sent a memo to Public Works employees to “reiterate” the department’s “commitment to safety and the continuous practice of properly loading city trucks.”  His note went on to pledge changes in the department’s safety manual that will “include new language on the proper loading of trucks.”

The department’s safety manual specifies that cargo inside pickup trucks must be "properly loaded and secured with no less than two chains."

When NBC Bay Area notified the department of that language, a Public Works spokesperson said the reference to "chains" in the agency’s Code of Safe Practices is actually a mistake that will soon be corrected since securing loads would require the use of straps or ropes, not "chains."  The current version of the department’s safety manual is dated June 2017, which means the error appears to have gone unnoticed for at least one year and seven months.

San Francisco Public Works has 15 days to appeal the Cal/OSHA citation or pay the $1,200 fine.

Cal/OSHA Citations: 

1.  The employer failed to establish and implement effective methods or procedures to correct the unsafe condition of overloading the [Bureau of Street and Environmental Services] street cleaning trucks.

  • The Bureau of Street Environmental Services Code of Safe Practices does not recognize the hazard of compromising a vehicle and the driver by overloading a vehicle.

2.  The employer failed to include methods and/or procedures for correcting unsafe or unhealthy conditions, work practices and work procedures in a timely manner.

  • It was documented in the Hazard Log on March 9, 2018 that the wash rack that is used multiple times, by multiple employees daily was compromised by pavement cracking and the inlet drain not functioning properly. Residuals from the street cleaning vehicles were not draining and employees were working in standing water with floating used syringes and other unsafe debris.


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