City of Berkeley to appeal citations regarding death of city worker

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The city of Berkeley will appeal citations by the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or OSHA, regarding the recent death of public waste commission worker Johnny Tolliver, Sr. after he was crushed and killed by his garbage truck.

The division issued a report on June 22 that found that the city did not meet various safety standards, including providing a separate cover for a circuit breaker, checking the garbage truck at the beginning of each shift as required by law and ensuring adequate training programs. The city will appeal six of eight citations regarding issues such as training procedures for employees and will not appeal the citations regarding the circuit breaker and conducting inspections of the trucks.

“We’ve been looking at a number of different practices and policies to see how we can improve workplace safety for employees,” said city spokesperson Matthai Chakko. “That won’t stop and that’s what we’re going to continue working on.”

Chakko stated that the city will improve training and standard operating procedures, place signs and labels in the truck to remind drivers to follow safety instructions and further document that safety inspections of trucks are completed. The city will also work closer with employees and unions.

According to OSHA’s report, Tolliver, 52, and a co-worker parked their truck in Berkeley Hills while picking up trash cans and left the gear lever on neutral without engaging the parking brake. The vehicle rolled downhill, and the workers ran after the vehicle.

Tolliver’s co-worker tripped while running and was unable to see how his co-worker was eventually crushed by the truck. 911 was notified and Tolliver was sent to the Oakland Highland Hospital, where he died that same day.

Tolliver had been employed by the Berkeley Zero Waste division for about 25 years, operating various types of trucks. Chakko stated that to his knowledge, there had not been similar vehicle-related issues with the city of Berkeley in the past.

“Whatever we can do to ensure that something like this does not happen, we will try to do,” Chakko said.

OSHA was notified and began its investigation on the day of the accident, and it proposed eight penalties totaling $98,425, ranging from $560 to $22,500. The two largest fines, both at $22,500, were for not ensuring that the vehicle was under positive control during all periods of operation and the parking brake was set when the truck was parked.

Zero Waste division drivers that were interviewed by OSHA stated that many workers hadn’t previously read or seen the operating manual and basic explanations of truck gears was inadequate. OSHA also found that drivers did not commonly use parking brakes while on slopes.

Contact Lillian Dong at [email protected].