Dallas, Texas – Amid soaring temperatures, the City of Dallas Sanitation Department is grappling with the adverse effects of intense heat on both its employees and equipment, prompting city leaders to enact temporary adjustments to operational schedules and policies. The necessity of these measures highlights the inherent challenges of waste collection – an industry that requires strenuous manual labor even under optimal conditions.
“About half of our collections, call it garbage and recycling collections, in the City of Dallas are done with manual labor using rear load collection trucks,” said Clifton Gillespie, Director of Sanitation for the City of Dallas, to CBS News Texas.
Major problem for the Sanitation Department employees is the number of homes on a single route
The difficulties faced by sanitation workers are further exacerbated by the sheer volume of households serviced on a single route, often ranging between 500 and 1000 homes. Coupled with the oppressive summer heat, the demands of the job become increasingly perilous.
Recognizing the heightened risk to its workers, the Sanitation Department, under Gillespie’s leadership, has implemented a series of adaptive measures aimed at mitigating the dangers posed by the sweltering temperatures. Ensuring the safety and well-being of its workforce remains a paramount concern for the department, and the modifications to scheduling and policy reflect the city’s unwavering commitment to safeguarding those who are on the front lines of waste collection.
“So we did launch our own internal departmental summer safety campaign in late May and early June, formalizing the process that we normally go through with our employees, just to bring a sense of awareness and a really a sense of urgency to the issue of summer safety,” he said.
The Sanitation Department has already implemented measures to help employees dealing with the heat
As part of these efforts, the department has provided alternative summer uniforms to its workers, comprised of lightweight t-shirts, bucket hats, and cooling towels. Additionally, crews are supplied with bags of ice and electrolyte drink powders daily, or as required.
Temporary employees, who typically labor on the backs of collection vehicles, have been granted permission to intermittently ride inside the truck cabs to cool down. To further alleviate the physical toll of heat exposure, the number of authorized rest breaks has been doubled from two to four during the summer months. Moreover, these rest breaks have been mandated to ensure workers take the necessary time to recuperate.
However, the impact of the heat extends beyond the department’s employees. Sanitation trucks have also fallen victim to the scorching temperatures, with several experiencing overheating and subsequently being taken out of service. To address this challenge, the department has, in some instances, opted to delay recycling pickup by a day.
Gillespie urges residents to stay informed about any disruptions or changes to sanitation services by subscribing to service advisories on the department’s website or by downloading the Dallas Sanitation mobile app. Staying apprised of the latest updates ensures that residents can adapt their waste disposal habits to accommodate any temporary modifications to collection schedules.