A Toxic Work Environment

| Working | July 25, 2014

(I work as a janitor at a dairy bottling plant.)

Boss: “Hey, [My Name], we found a problem, We need you to clean it up.”

Me: “What is it?”

Boss: “Someone graded the loading dock pavement wrong. Come take a look.”

(I go and look. There is a pond of black sludge 30 feet wide by 40 feet long under where they until just that day had three semi-trailers as extra loading dock storage. The boss hands me a scrub brush, a garden hose, and a pair of the sort of rubber gloves you wash dishes with.)

Me: “You must be kidding! I’d need a pressure washer, a hazmat coverall, and a respirator to go in there, The fumes alone are toxic and that sludge is an active biohazard! Call the City!”

(It’s true: milk fat is an ideal bacterial growth medium. Fat and sugar runoff from tankers spilling both while unloading had been running down to feed the sludge for at least TWO YEARS.)

Boss: “Legal says we shouldn’t let the City find out or it would be very expensive for us. As for the respirator, I’m sorry but OSHA regs say we can’t loan you a respirator you’re not trained on, the pressure washer hose won’t reach, and the hazmat guy took his suit home with him.”

Me: “Look, I’ll buy a respirator out of my own pocket, okay?”

(Boss goes away, consults with legal, and comes back.)

Boss: “Sorry, it would be illegal to let you buy safety gear out of your own pocket. You’ll have to make do without it.”

(That was the day, the very minute, I quit that job.)

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