Bill Would Include Sanitation Workers Under 2009 Law That Protects Police, Highway Workers
Legislation Assembly Democrats Joann Downey, Eric Houghtaling, Daniel Benson and Raj Mukherji sponsored to protect New Jersey’s sanitation workers gained final legislative approval from the Assembly on Thursday. It now heads to the governor’s desk.
The bill follows the death of Freehold resident Michael Massey, an Ocean Township Public Works employee, who was killed in a 2013 motor vehicle crash while working. The sponsors note that requiring motorists to make a lane change or reduce their speed in the presence of a sanitation vehicle can help prevent similar incidents in the future.
“Sanitation workers typically are out competing for space on the road with people rushing during the morning commute. When motorists aren’t paying close attention while the sanitation workers are getting on and off a truck, it creates a dangerous situation for hard-working public servants in our communities,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Having drivers slow down, use caution and give sanitation workers enough space to do their jobs can save lives.”
The bill (A-4452), to be known as “Michael Massey’s Law,” would add sanitation vehicles to the state’s “Move Over” law. The 2009 law requires motorists to reduce their speed and change lanes when approaching authorized vehicles. Failure to slow down or move over is punishable by a fine of $100 to $500.
“Just like people working in a number of other dangerous environments, sanitation workers have an occupation that puts them in harm’s way on a regular basis,” said Houghtaling (D-Monmouth). “These men and women play an important, often-overlooked role in our society, and it’s crucial that our state takes all possible measures to keep them safe.”
“Sanitation work is an occupation with one of the highest rates of fatal on-the-job injuries in the country, and in part, that’s due to traffic-related incidents,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “It takes just a few seconds for a driver to changes lanes, and doing so can help ensure that sanitation workers are able to work safely and return home to their families at the end of the day.”
“Sanitation workers deal with many occupational hazards that are preventable,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Making sure they are protected under the ‘Move Over’ law can help limit a major risk factor within this industry.”
The measure also would require sanitation vehicles to display flashing amber warning lights while stopped on a street and while engaged in the collection of garbage or while moving between stops at a speed of 10 miles per hour or less. Current law authorizes sanitation vehicles to use flashing lights but does not require this safety provision.
The bill gained unanimous Assembly approval Thursday after passing the Senate 35-1 in November.